Arnhem municipality is no longer waiting for the cabinet to help citizens in financial need: ‘This is a social security crisis’

For weeks there has been talk of possible plans for the cabinet: Will something be presented on Budget Day that will help people in financial need? The municipality of Arnhem will not wait any longer and will give the residents extra money themselves.

All summer nothing seemed possible from the political Hague. Something finally leaked out last week, but according to Arnhem councilor for social security, Mark Lauriks, it is taking far too long. “The crisis is now.”

Tired of stress

Arnhem Municipality finds its residents stuck, like many other people in the country. The situation is harsh, there is talk of a ‘sustainability crisis’ that is worse than just an energy crisis or a purchasing power crisis.

“Hundreds of people call our municipality in tears,” says Lauriks. “People get sick from stress.” Chairman Marco Florijn of the NVVK sector’s association of financial aid providers also sees that unrest is increasing. “People are threatening our emergency workers or calling because they’re thinking about suicide. It’s the saddest scenario you can think of. You hear how big the problems are in the community.”

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‘I must not incur new debts’

Arnhem Daisy Passon (27) is in debt settlement and has 50 euros a week to spend. “I’m left with 30 euros a month. My gas contract doubles this year, it’s going to be a problem.”

Daisy fears that if she gets into new debt, she will lose her trust. Indebted persons who are being guided may not incur new debts.

No postponements

The energy bill is therefore an extra big concern for people in debt restructuring. In Arnhem, meanwhile, the municipality has agreed that people will not lose their financial guidance if they fall back into debt due to energy costs. Councilor Lauriks is also locally engaged in ensuring that evictions do not take place.

“Now that inflation is very high, I feel it a lot,” says Daisy. “Groceries are much more expensive, I have to use the food bank. Life is not fun. My friends go to festivals while I spend all my money on groceries. Eating a plate is more important.”

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‘Life is not funny’

Daisy has come a long way to be where she is today. She is a volunteer at Stichting Oprecht, and because she has been partially rejected, she is entitled to benefits. “I had to deal with an accumulation of problems. I never learned how to manage money, I spent too much money. The debt piled up. I had a bad boyfriend and became homeless.”

At one point she investigated everything and got a minister. Now that she is in the process of debt restructuring, she is doing better.

‘The problem is bigger than purchasing power’

Florijn from the debt advisers is very concerned about the growing crisis. “It’s intense. We need a government-wide policy.” He believes that Minister Schouten for poverty reduction is aware of how people feel at the kitchen table, but that the urgency is not yet in the entire cabinet.

“The problem is more serious than we have seen until now. Groups are seeking debt counseling like we have never seen before. The problem is also bigger than purchasing power. Rent costs had already increased, we are also seeing health costs increase. We are now putting pressure on the cabinet hoping they will bring clarity. Not just about energy, there’s a broader purchasing power issue.”

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‘Brave step’

Arnhem mayor Mark Lauriks sees it too. That is why he is now working on an extra energy supplement. In addition, poor families can get help to buy school supplies. Even if the fridge or washing machine is broken, the municipality helps. He uses the sustainability fund to help people buy a sustainable fridge and other white goods, so that the energy bill in people’s homes is reduced.”

Florijn thinks it is brave that Arnhem is now coming forward. “The cabinet has not done it. Arnhem sees for itself what is happening in the streets and neighborhoods, so you understand the despair. The energy supplement of 1,300 euros is not enough, more is happening. I think it is great that they are now coming forward , I think several municipalities are preparing for that.”

See the report in Arnhem here.

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