We asked for water bottles from neighbors because we were closed. We had to poop in sandwich bags and hot water on the stone grill to wash ourselves,” says an older teen. Another: “It becomes normal at some point. My friends ate and I made excuses or said I wasn’t hungry.” Third: “I pulled my braces off my teeth with pliers because there was no more money for Ortho.”
This is a selection of the 114 stories of children, teens, and young adults recorded by Diversion about their experiences with Benefits Affair. the report Get to know us, help us Commissioned by the Finance Ministry, which is now studying a “baby scheme” for tens of thousands of children whose parents have found themselves in financial trouble because the government has mistakenly labeled them as fraudsters. What the baby scheme will entail will be announced soon.
Emphasizing that fines, reminders, record visits, and account confiscation at home affected the youth of these children, as evidenced by the report. Some parents collapsed, others lost their jobs, and ended up taking unemployment benefits, and later on social assistance or debt restructuring. Other parents divorced. According to Statistics Netherlands, between 2015 and 2021, the Child Protection Agency placed 1,675 “children’s allowance” outside their homes between 2015 and 2021, according to the Central Statistical Office.
To the ATM as soon as possible
One young man recalls: “This still affects my daily life a lot even today: I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since I was 10. (…) I also work six days a week, sometimes two shifts. To pay off debts. It robbed me of my future. And I would like to pass that on to the government. They are standing still.”
Another related: “My mother’s payments came on a specific day of every month. Then we were ready to go to the ATM: we had to withdraw all the money from the account as quickly as possible in order to buy food. Sometimes we were very late, and then the money was already gone. Released to the tax authorities.
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Money alone is not enough, according to the report and recommendations. Individual help and individual recognition is what these children demand from the government. According to them, the general amount and everyone’s website, with tips and suggestions, is not enough. The kids would like a “financial doctor” they could go to and be independent: “They can pay for it, but I don’t want to do anything with them anymore. Soon I’ll be waiting for hours again, like in the IRS.” They are, according to all testimonies, afraid of the government and afraid of money.
I was very alone, also because I was being bullied. I didn’t talk about anything. Not even with teachers because of problems at home’
The loneliness that many children experienced because their parents had many problems is also reflected in the report: “I was very private, also because I was being bullied. I didn’t talk about anything. Not even with teachers because of problems at home. There were threats to expel us. , so fear played a role. In the end, you keep everything to yourself and are no longer open to anything.” Another says, “I was angry at school, misunderstood and seen as aggressive. I couldn’t tell how things were at home.”
Others say they began to despise their parents: “I didn’t take my mother seriously for long. When we ran out of water for two weeks in the winter because my mother couldn’t pay the bill, I was angry and stopped taking her seriously. Root’s message changed this [veel gedupeerde gezinnen kregen vorig jaar een excuusbrief van premier Rutte] But it also made me sad. I’ve been angry with my mother half my life, and that’s crucial and hard to get over.”
The Referral Office states that children in any case do not want “harsh help”. They don’t want help from youth welfare or administrators. They say they don’t want consequences if they don’t follow the advice. They want free help. For example, from a mentor: “I want someone who is already there for me, with no other interests.” This is possible, according to the children interviewed. Digitally better too.
A version of this article also appeared in the October 20, 2022 newspaper