Courts failed to protect victims in childcare allowance scandal, judges say
The courts suffered from legal tunnel vision in the childcare allowance scandal. They, therefore, failed to protect tens of thousands of parents, according to an evaluation of the scandal by judges themselves, AD reports. This report will be published next week, but AD already got a look at it.
Judges often sided with the Tax Authority, which meant that they made "a substantial contribution to maintaining the rock-hard implementation" of the childcare allowance rules. As a result, many parents had to repay all their childcare allowance for even the most minor mistakes, leaving many in financial trouble even years later, the evaluation said, according to the newspaper.
The evaluation, done by a working group headed by judge Jan van Catsburg of the Midden-Nederland court, cited a ruling in 2015 as an example. Then the Midden-Nederland court ruled that parents had to repay 27,554 euros because they had an outstanding amount of 77.32 euros at the Tax Authority. "Such an outstanding amount, however small, is sufficient to reclaim the entire childcare allowance," the ruling said.
The working group evaluated all 16,753 cases involving childcare allowance between 2010 and 2019. They found that the judge ruled in favor of the parents in only 23.2 percent of cases. And then the appeals court usually ruled against the parents. What made things even more difficult for parents was that they usually had to defend themselves in court as they are not entitled to objection proceedings in benefits cases.
The researchers concluded that judges should more often side with citizens, especially if they are disproportionately affected if the ruling goes against them. Judges need to empathize more with citizens and not just look at the relevant facts.
Earlier this week, victims in the childcare allowance scandal met with King Willem-Alexander. According to NOS, it was the first time the King met with victims of government failure.