Better cooperation is needed to combat poverty, single parents and children in the Caribbean region of the Netherlands

Today, National Ombudsman Rainier van Zutveen, on behalf of Children’s Ombudsman Margaret Calverbur, submitted the “Caribbean Children of Reckoning” report to Alida Francis, Commissioner of the Government of St Eustatius. The Responsible Secretary of State Alexandra van Hovelen (Kingdom Relations and Digitization) also received a copy.

This report illustrates the bottlenecks faced by single parents and children in the Caribbean in the Netherlands who live in poverty. Once again they are demanding attention and action from local and national government. The National Ombudsman, Children’s Ombudsman, and other organizations have drawn attention to this matter for some time. And it is still necessary, according to conversations that ombudsmen and their investigators have had with single parents and children. Previous research was conducted on poverty among the elderly and young adults in the Caribbean region of the Netherlands.

Better cooperation

Despite the measures taken to combat poverty in Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba, the National Ombudsman and Children’s Ombudsman remain concerned about young parents and their children growing up in poverty. Urgent and intensive cooperation between the national government and the public entities of the three islands is necessary. The Ombudsmen clearly see a guiding role for the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations here. The approach is not simple, because many ministries and (governmental) organizations are involved. However, structural and long-term efforts to reduce poverty are needed in the Caribbean Netherlands.

Very big differences between the Caribbean and the European Netherlands

Ombudsmen believe that single parents and their children expect the government to help them quickly and carefully to improve their situation. They must be able to build a stable future for themselves and their children. There are very large differences in facilities in the European Netherlands and a social minimum must be established based on the true cost of living on the islands. This can only be achieved with a better knowledge of the problems that exist.

Rainer van Zutveen, National Ombudsman: “It is very important that single parents in the Caribbean in the Netherlands do not only get more money. They and their children are entitled to a rapid improvement of facilities. This is only possible through better cooperation between different governments and organizations, both in Europe and the Caribbean Netherlands.”

Consequences for children

Poverty has severe consequences for the upbringing of children, especially if their parents are not married. In conversations with parents and children and from previous research, it appears that single parents do not have enough space to give their children care, love and attention. The parents are under stress and tension because of all the (financial) problems. They are also generally away from home for work. It ensures that there can be less structure, rules, support and concern for children.

Margaret Calverbur, Children’s Ombudsman: “Children who have grown up in poverty often face a range of problems in different areas of life. As a result, there is a high risk that poverty will be passed on to them and passed on from generation to generation. It is important to break this pattern” .


The Ombudsmen make the following recommendations to the Minister of State for Interior and Kingdom Relations based on all discussions and findings:

  • Create an integrated approach to care (access), with special attention and a child-oriented approach.
  • Focus on more financial (debt-related) help and accessible legal provisions.
  • Make parenting support negotiable, available, and accessible.
  • Make childcare available for free.
  • Offers affordable courses so that parents (unmarried) can continue their education.


In November 2022, a conference will be organized in the Caribbean region of the Netherlands. Here the Ombudsmen and their colleagues from Curaçao and Sint Maarten will discuss the broad approach to poverty.


Since 2010 Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba have been municipalities of the Netherlands. Together they make up the Caribbean Netherlands. Since then, the National Ombudsman has been dealing with complaints related to government agencies on the islands. Since 2012, he has also been dealing with complaints related to local government authorities or public bodies. The Children’s Ombudsman has been handling complaints in the Caribbean region of the Netherlands since 2011.

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