Dec 16, 05:56
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Rotterdam – Our city will also end 2021 as the poorest city in the Netherlands. The city where more children grow up in poverty than anywhere else in our country. Still, there seems to be reason for cautious joy. According to the latest figures, ‘only’ one in six Rotterdam children currently lives below the poverty line. That was one in four.
By Emile van de Velde
The figures are not completely up to date. These are calculations by the Central Bureau of Statistics that were published recently, but were measured as of January 1, 2020. That is, before the corona crisis. That pandemic will certainly affect the current situation. Just like, for example, the consequences of the allowance affair, government policy and even global developments leave their mark on Rotterdam households.
Nevertheless, the Rotterdam alderman for poverty Michiel Grauss looks with some satisfaction at the trend of the poverty figures. “Child poverty is always something to worry about. So the numbers give mixed feelings. What we see is something to be thankful for, but you don’t see any flags hanging here on the town hall. One child growing up in poverty is one too many. But we come from 20.6 percent of Rotterdam children below the poverty line, which is 16.6 percent in the latest CBS measurements. The aim is to halve child poverty by 2030, with this declining trend that should be possible.”
Grauss is naturally looking for the causes of the decline. “The influence of the municipal authorities on these kinds of developments is always limited. But there is one aspect that we have come to take much more seriously in recent years when it comes to fighting poverty. More attention is being paid to the influence of stress on people’s choices. The stress of debt, the stress of getting food on the table for your child every day, influences decisions. For example, filling in forms, making choices for the future.”
He continues: “We are now putting more emphasis on what we call ‘stress sensitive services’. So don’t ask people to solve their problems themselves, but stand next to them. Ask what people need, what they could use help with. We try to solve problems together. That starts with identifying those problems. All kinds of people are working on this in the city. At sports clubs, the GP, in the houses of the neighbourhood. In some schools we now deploy so-called equality of opportunity employees who can provide help to parents.”
The impact of the corona pandemic is of course undeniable. Just like the allowance affair: 3,700 Rotterdammers have already been recognized as victims of unjustified suspicions of fraud with childcare allowances and the strict reclaims from the tax authorities. Grauss: “Although we are not guilty of the allowance affair, we also did not pay enough attention to the human dimension in our collection policy. We are now paying more attention to social collection and are affiliated with the creditors’ coalition. We can never make up for what happened to people at the hands of the government during the allowance affair, I ask what we can do now, where we can help people.”
Grauss compares debt with a corona infection and the associated stress with getting sick. “We need to be there before or soon after a debt virus contagion. After that, people get sick, and eventually death follows, which in this case is eviction, for example. And then we are too late.”