Dutch govt to tighten welfare law: recipients must be able to speak Dutch

Tamara van Ark
Tamara van ArkPhoto: Rijksoverheid

State Secretary Tamara van Ark of Social Affairs wants to make binding agreements with Dutch municipalities about enforcing the 'language requirement' when paying welfare benefits. This requirement - which states that people receiving social assistance benefits must be able to use the Dutch language or learn to do so quickly - was entered into Dutch law in 2016, but as an 'option' for municipalities. The government now wants to make it an obligation, the Volkskrant reports.

The language requirement states that welfare recipients who refuse to learn Dutch, can be penalized on their benefits. As it is currently only an 'option' for municipalities, the  municipalities can decide whether and how they want to impose this requirement on welfare recipients. 

Last year it became clear that almost all municipalities use the language requirement as a criterion for awarding a benefit, but failing applicants almost never face penalties, according to the newspaper. State Secretary Van Ark now wants to change this by making agreements with the municipalities about enforcing this requirement. She will start speaking with the municipalities after the interim evaluation of the implementation of the language requirement early next year.

The Rutte III coalition agreement states that work is a "very important part of integration". The four parties in the coalition therefore agreed that the language requirement must be applied and enforced when granting welfare benefits. "In order to increase the command of the Dutch language - and with that the future perspective - municipalities must actively implement the existing obligation to learn the Dutch language", the agreement states. "The Cabinet wants to make non-voluntary administrative agreements with municipalities about this."