Dutch policy against childhood poverty falls short: Children's Ombudsman

(Photo: Ranveig/Dodo / Wikimedia Commons). ((Photo: Ranveig/Dodo / Wikimedia Commons))

The Netherlands current poverty policy is not enough to adequately meet the needs of the 378 thousand children in the country living in poverty, according to Children's Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer. More attention must be paid to creating a stable home situation for these children, she said in a report published on Tuesday, Het Parool reports.

The current policy is mainly aimed at giving things to poor families, but this is not what children in poor families really need, Kalverboer said. "Children do not get enough attention at home and feel the stress of their parents, who are frantically busy with day-to-day life and have no long term view." It's good that children in poor families get laptops and bicycles for example, but "if you do not do something about the basic unrest within the family, you can only make use of the facilities in a limited way", according to the Ombudsman. 

Unrest within the family also often leads to isolation and problems at school. Children often struggle to concentrate due to stress, and they feel ashamed if they can't hand out treats to their classmates on their birthday, or can't go on school trips. 

Kalverboer believes that another, simpler to solve, problem is that the various services within municipalities don't work well together, resulting in families sometimes dealing with up to eight helpers. She recommends assigning one helper to a family per municipality. 

State Secretary Tamara van Ark of Social Affairs and Employment called childhood poverty a "harrowing" problem and finds it important to fight against it. "A good start for a child is also very important for being able to participate later", she said, according to Het Parool. "This report shows the complexity of the poverty issue, but unfortunately there is no blueprint for combating poverty." She will study the Children's Ombudsman's advice and give a more in-depth response early next year. That will also include recent advice from the