Major concerns about growing poverty – DordtCentraal

REGULATORY LAW – An increasing number of households are experiencing financial difficulties due to the sharp increase in the cost of living. The energy, the daily purchases, the petrol. Everything has become much more expensive in a short time. And it’s certainly not just about the minimum wage, Councilor Peter Heijkoop (Finance, Work & Income, Poverty & Debt) also knows. Locally, there are a few things that can be done to ease the pain, but particularly from The Hague, action must now be taken, he says. “On behalf of the municipalities, as VNG director, I already expressed my serious concern about the current situation to the government six months ago. It is disappointing that decisive action has not been taken much earlier.” (Photo: Ronald van de Heerik)

After the ‘cry for help’ half a year ago, there were several calls from the municipalities for urgent action to be taken. The signals continued to reach Heijkoop even during the political hiatus. “I’ve had a lot of emails from people who are very concerned about the cost of living,” he says. “I also feel it in a young family that I personally supervise. They were happy that they could move to a more spacious home, but suddenly saw their prepayment for energy jump to 500 euros a month. You see that many adjust that amount down, but that naturally results in a huge final showdown later on.”

Apart from reality

At local level, there is a surcharge in the energy costs of 1,300 euros for minimum requirements. In many cases, it is too small an amount, according to Heijkoop. “And that’s only because of the more than 13,000 people who are in our picture, because they get help from the Social Security Administration. I’m also very concerned about the people we don’t know: the lower middle income people who are in danger of falling through the ice. What comes from The Hague is too little, too late and not targeted. It seems that the cabinet is out of touch with what is going on in society. ‘We take the data’, I hear the finance minister say. They seem disconnected from reality. It is important that the government gets a handle on its priorities and now comes up with a large purchasing power package.”

Millions of people

That package was also announced this week, but won’t take effect until next year. “It could not be arranged before. Disappointing again”, says Heijkoop. “It’s bizarre, because we rang the bell months ago. This week I spoke to a Member of Parliament who rightly predicted that if nothing extra happens, in the long term there could be a million people on the doorstep of municipalities and social services And this while the municipalities are already facing a lot of pressure, including receiving Ukrainians and asylum seekers and distributing energy supplements.”

poverty program

The factions of, among others, Beter Voor Dordt and VSP have in recent weeks called on the councilor to take extra steps at local level. “As a municipality, we must not pursue an income policy that is reserved for the government,” says Heijkoop. “We already have a successful poverty program running. We want to expand that. And we will come up with further proposals in a few weeks. Fortunately, we have the funds in Dordrecht to free up several millions in the coming years for poverty reduction. For short-term support, but also for for example tackling energy poverty in collaboration with my colleague Councilor Tanja de Jonge (Energy & Environment, Sustainability) by making homes more energy efficient. But again: It is primarily the state’s task to intervene. By lowering taxes on low and middle incomes. And by taxing capital and the exorbitant profits of large companies.”

knock

What is possible is done locally, says Heijkoop. “We have the expertise in-house. At the moment, we are not yet equipped for a huge influx to, among other things, SDD, but we will scale up if necessary,” says Heijkoop. His advice: Don’t wait too long to seek financial help. “Bank, because a big debt starts with a small debt. At Social Service, at the Social District Team, at the Food Bank. We all work together, know where to find each other and look for the best help together.”

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