Cabinet too slow in compensating parents hurt by child benefits scandal, says ombudsman
The National Ombudsman, Reinier van Zutphen, wants more mediation between the Tax Authority and the parents victimized in the childcare allowance affair to speed up the assessments to determine whether they are entitled to compensation. "Because it goes too slowly, and people are not spoken to," Van Zutphen said to NOS.
The Tax Authority assesses most victims in steps. The first "light test" is to weed out parents obviously not eligible for compensation. After that, the Recovery Allowance Implementing Body (UHT) does a more in-depth assessment. Some parents have to wait years for that assessment. The next step is the Actual Damages Committee, which examines whether victims are entitled to compensation for emotional suffering, among other things. The Tax Authority expects it to take until at least 2026 for all victims to go through these steps.
In the meantime, parents are left in the dark about their assessment status, the Ombudsman said. The Tax Authority doesn't inform them of delays. And those who complain about decision deadlines not being met get no response. The UHT has received some 12,000 such complaints, which is also wasting time.
The Ombudsman suggested that the Tax Authority meet with victimized parents and see if they can come to a settlement agreement - a compensation amount if they refrain from further proceedings. "Sit with people and ask what they need," Van Zutphen said. "The Tax Authority must reach an agreement with them. Then people can put an end to this terrible problem and miserable period inflicted on them by the government."
Lawyers representing victimized parents have also been pushing for settlement agreements. But responsible State Secretary Aujke de Vries also sees downsides. It would mean another regulation taking up time, and there could be legal inequality because parents receive different compensation. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Finance launched a trial to see for which victims a settlement agreement could work. Fifteen parents are participating, and the results are expected in a few months.