Minister of State Van Uygen: Priority for the most vulnerable children to curb market forces | news item

news item | 2022-05-13 | 16:30

Secretary of State Van Augen (VWS) wants to implement major youth welfare reforms to improve care for children, young people and families who need them. Proper organization of the care of children with the most complex problems is the highest priority and this requires more control and a professional space. The current system mainly encourages lighter forms of care. The Secretary of State wants a clear definition in law of what falls under the care of young people, with the goal of being able to help children who really need it better and faster. It also wants to reduce market forces and remove perverse incentives from the youth care system, for example by tackling excessive profits and limiting growth in the number of youth care providers. Along with Minister Weywind (Legal Protection), the House has reported on his plans to improve youth welfare and make it more financially manageable.

FOREIGN MINISTER VAN UYGEN: “Fighting for every child, with this commitment I started working as foreign minister in January. Since then I’ve spoken to many children and parents who have to deal with youth care, and I’ve heard often that they are not receiving the right help at the right time. I speak Also to the many caregivers, they are also stuck in the system. This touches me greatly and motivates me to implement major reforms. More and more money, time and energy is being spent on lighter forms of aid, while we all desperately need it to take better care of the most vulnerable children. There are all kinds of false incentives in the system, we have to get rid of them. By curbing market forces, we are moving closer to a system that really focuses on helping children. I am happy to work with municipalities and other stakeholders to jointly improve youth welfare.”

More control and professional space for even the most complex care

In youth welfare reform, providing adequate care to the most vulnerable children is the highest priority. This includes children who have to deal with highly complex care requirements, such as an eating disorder, a chronic condition, or a youth protection measure. Often times they end up in waiting lists and are unable to find their way into a chaotic care system. That’s why there should be more control and professional space for the most complex forms of care. This care, which is needed by relatively few children across the country, must be purchased and organized centrally. Relief workers should be given the space to do the right things on the basis of their professional experience. In addition, regional purchase of specialized care will be mandatory. There will be more control over the logical division of these areas in terms of division and size, so that you can perform this role as effectively as possible.

Care is there when you really need it

Where in 1997 1 in 27 children benefited from youth care, in 2015 this was 1 in 10 and in 2021 even 1 in 7. Children who really need help or care should of course always be able to claim it . But now the system works in such a way that the offering of lighter forms of assistance in particular continues to grow and children find themselves in it very easily. It is important that care remains available to children who really need it. When allocating youth care, more consideration must be given to the nature and severity of the problems and what solutions are actually possible in the child’s particular environment. This is more clearly defined in the law.

End the perverse incentives of market forces

The imbalance between complex care and soft care in the system is one consequence of market forces in youth care. Youth welfare should be about helping children, not increasing profits. The Secretary of State wants to end the perverse incentives that encourage this, among other things by maximizing profits. The growth of service providers is curbed by limiting so-called “open house” bidding. These are the tenders in which each provider who meets the conditions automatically obtains a contract. Moreover, real rates that are proportional to the type of care provided must be paid, so that it is not feasible to provide only light and cheap care. The law determines how these rates are calculated.

Reform agenda resumed

Some of these reforms are detailed in the reform agenda. All parties want to take responsibility for improving youth welfare. Earlier this year, municipalities suspended their cooperation on the reform agenda, following planned savings of €511 million in youth welfare. Now that the Cabinet has decided that these savings are the responsibility of the central government, the municipalities are once again committed to jointly coming up with the reform agenda. Concretely, this means that it is up to the national government to take additional measures that will lead to savings.

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