Government’s response to criticism of ombudsman and children’s ombudsman on BES islands

Dossier Konkrijksrelaties reports that, as one of her last acts as Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Minister Hanke Bruins Slot (she succeeds Hoekstra as Minister of Foreign Affairs) today sent the cabinet response to the annual reports of the National Ombudsman and the Children’s Ombudsman to the House of Representatives. About the Caribbean Netherlands.

Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Minister Hanke Bruins Slot

She writes:

Caribbean Netherlands

Poverty on the BES islands

Improving living standards and combating poverty is the main goal of the entire cabinet for the Caribbean Netherlands. Combating poverty requires a broad approach by departments and a broad coalition of parties. The Minister for Poverty Policy, Participation and Pensions informs the House of Representatives annually about the state of affairs in the progress report on the benchmark social minimum.

The government is taking the following measures, among others:

  • As of 1 January 2023, the Statutory Minimum Wage (WML), minimum benefits and child benefit have been significantly increased;
  • The general old-age pension (AOV) was raised to the benchmark social minimum in January;
  • As of 1 October, the support for single persons and widowed orphans’ insurance will also be increased to the level of the benchmark.
  • The Committee on the Social Minimum of the Caribbean Netherlands has been set up to investigate the level and system of the social minimum in the Caribbean Netherlands. Its results are expected by 1 October at the latest. The social minimum will be fixed as soon as possible.

Poverty reduction also involves working on well-being and broad prosperity. It is not only about income and reducing costs but also, for example, about improving debt assistance, participation in the labor market and the social security system. It is important that the inhabitants living in poverty are reached. This requires customization and (more) cooperation between the central government and the public bodies. The measures taken by the government are further explained in the progress report on the social minimum.

Caribbean students in the Netherlands

The government recognizes the administrative challenges that Caribbean students face when they come to study in the European Netherlands. Therefore, the following measures are taken:

  • On 24 March, the Council of Ministers adopted a resolution on the subject. agreed to amend the Decree on basic registration of persons, so that from 2024 onwards, Caribbean students can immediately receive a BSN via DUO when applying for student finance before arrival in the Netherlands. This is made possible by temporarily registering them as non-residents in the BRP. After the entry into force, time is needed to adapt the DUO’s systems. Given the complexity of this, it is not yet possible for Caribbean students who start their studies in the Netherlands in the academic year 2023-2024 to receive a BSN upon registration. They receive a BSN after registration in the BRP of the Dutch municipality where they will live.
  • In order to support the students who do not yet receive a BSN this year, BZK has sent a letter to the Dutch municipalities, partly due to OCW. This requested cooperation in order to ensure that the process for registration in the Personal Records Database (BRP) for Caribbean students runs as smoothly as possible. The letter is accompanied by an appendix with a more complete overview of the situations with possible solutions. The National Office for Entity Data (RvIG) can support municipalities in this.
  • In consultation with all the authorities involved, the Caribbean Students Information Sheet has also been adapted to the situation in 2023 and students have been informed through important intermediaries, such as schools, accompanying bodies, and civil affairs departments. Where the registration cannot be handled smoothly and the student may therefore run into problems, RvIG will offer support and look for a solution together with the relevant municipality. All prospective Caribbean students who will receive student finance have also been informed about the bridging measure by e-mail. In addition, the measure has been communicated via the media and social media.

Children in the Caribbean Netherlands

The State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport and the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations has received the report ‘Caribische kinderen van de rekening’ and the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations has sent a response to the Children’s Ombudsman and the Ombudsman.

  • Improving living standards and combating poverty is the main goal of the entire cabinet for the Caribbean Netherlands. The government takes the recommendations to heart and will follow them up (where possible). The government is looking forward with interest to the vision on the poverty problem in the Caribbean Netherlands that the National Ombudsman will present together with the Children’s Ombudsman in 2023.
  • The annual report also describes the working visits that the Children’s Ombudsman and her team made to the Caribbean Netherlands in 2022. The Caribbean citizens and children know how to find them better and better. This is of course a good development because the Children’s Ombudsman also has an important role for children and young people on the islands in protecting their rights.

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