Wednesday, 28 October 2015 - 11:17
Child advocate: City cash concerns trump child care needs
The access to and quality of youth healthcare is being threatened because municipalities are increasingly forced to focus on costs and savings, instead of the interests of the child, according to Children's Ombudsman Marc Dullaert. "When determining what treatment a child gets, his individual interests should come first, and not the financial or organizational interest of the municipality or institution. That currently does not seem to be the case." That is one of the conclusions Dullaert reached in his investigation into whether children are still receiving the care they are entitled to after the decentralization of healthcare to the municipalities at the start of this year. The decentralization should have led to faster, more coherent assistance for vulnerable children and to a reduction in the regulatory burden on professionals. In his second report on the matter, the Children's Ombudsman states that these goals have not been achieved. "It is logical that such a major operation takes time", he writes. "On the other hand, I see that deliberate trade-offs are being made, and that to the detriment of the children." According to Dullaert, municipalities are increasingly forced to work towards savings and this affects the help children receive. Children get the help the municipality has available, and that does not always correspond to what a specialist prescribed. He believes that that does not necessarily mean that the kids are not getting the proper care, but it does show that financial interest outweigh the interests of the child. The Children Ombudsman also found that bureaucratic haggling is having an increasing influence on the access and quality of youth care. Municipalities bicker among themselves about which municipality a child belongs to, or have long ongoing discussions with authorities about under which legislation the child belong. This results in unnecessary waiting lists. Some municipalities have waiting lists for access to the district teams, waiting lists for child protection or for providers of specialized care, such as youth mental health care. Dullaert is calling on the government to take responsibility for the situation in which access to and the quality of youth care are threatened by financial priorities, organizational interest and administrative burdens. He also asks the municipalities and youth healthcare providers to put the interest of the child first.