Struggling for Justice: Our Battle Against the Benefits Affair in the NetherlandsPosted on November 13, 2021 • 16 min read • 3,269 words
Discover our personal fight for justice amid the Dutch benefits affair. Join us on a journey of resilience, loss, and hope for a brighter future. Support our cause!
The benefits affair is a dark page in Dutch history that has disrupted the lives of thousands of families. We, as victims of this tragic event, want to share our story and shine a spotlight on the ongoing fight for justice. In this blog post, we will share our personal experiences, the impact on our lives, and the obstacles we have had to overcome to find recovery.
In 1996, I was shot as a taxi driver by an unknown person. What followed was a years-long battle against my own body. Mentally I was resilient, but physically my body started to collapse more and more. The fruitless search for help in drink and medicine did not improve the situation.
Then, in a defenseless moment, “Natascha” appeared in my life. Despite the turbulence and problems of my previous marriage, she remained staunchly by my side. My physical health was deteriorating day by day, despite my great job in the ITC as a Network and Security Expert, and my series of Citrix certificates for WAN and Netscaler, which I carried out with love. The extensive travel and long hours eventually took their toll - the result was downtime. The UWV tried to help me get back to work, but in the end, they pulled the plug there too. The result was a loss of income, so great that even Natascha, with her rheumatic condition, could not compensate for this, which led to the Debt Restructuring of Natural Persons Act (WSNP).
Even in these difficult times, we stood strong and used the food bank, albeit with shame. The end of the WSNP was approaching, and our decision was crystal clear: never again would we find ourselves in a situation like this. After a long search, we came into contact with a holiday park under construction. They needed support for park management, as the current managers were already busy enough with their own affairs. Natascha became the park manager and I took on a role as a supporter and supervisor and resolved all ICT teething problems.
But then, at the end of 2015, our involvement with the holiday park came to an abrupt end. We were accused of all kinds of things, and we were stunned. Despite unpaid invoices and an increasing awareness of problematic business practices, we decided to go to the tax inspector to address our outstanding invoices. This resulted in a lawsuit, with a lawyer from Amsterdam, out of fear of corruption.
Unfortunately, we did not anticipate that the defendant would already be in the courtroom an hour before the trial. We were turned away, and to this day we are still waiting for €18,000 in outstanding invoices. During this time we always had a childminder at home for our three daughters, and we tried to make up for the damage we had suffered in the years before. We had a mobile home 15 kilometers away because we always had to be available, two cars, and everything seemed to be going well. But the accusations that cost us our jobs affected us deeply, and we didn’t understand why. Surcharges… it started to dawn.
We had lived in quiet Colijnsplaat for years, where we found our pride and joy in our homes. Our main home was a converted old fire station, and Natascha’s parents lived at the front, which not only provided additional family support but also a welcome financial safety net.
But when our work at the holiday park was unexpectedly stopped for unknown reasons, more and more dark things started to come to light. As we dug deeper into the shadowy world of benefits, fear began to mount. Day in, day out, we made calculations: would we survive this? How were we supposed to proceed? We searched for similar positions, but quickly discovered that our business network had been severely damaged by allegations. Many may not have believed us, but had no other option than to continue with the holiday park. As a result, our once extensive network shriveled to almost nothing.
Our childminder agency Viaviela in Goes told our childminder that they would ensure that we would continue to pay her for another six months. But we had no idea how to do that. We now had to survive on my WIA benefit, which was not exactly generous. And we also had to give up another 60% to the childminder. Information became our new ally. We collected data about the holiday park and the childminder agency.
One day, while we were on the road, I realized that I had forgotten my bag with important documents. When I returned home, however, I saw something ominous: my mouse moved across the screen and documents disappeared before my eyes. I knew immediately who was behind this. I unplugged the UTP cable from my computer and called the person in question to ask if this behavior was normal. Even a police investigation turned up nothing. We fought alone against a huge organization with countless influences in society.
The childminder agency suddenly no longer had any information for us. “No, sir, you have all that, right?” It felt like a nightmare from which we couldn’t wake up. Everything around us happened without us having any control over it. We contacted the tax authorities again and begged them to stop the surcharges. How could we ever pay this money back?
We lay awake for nights, worrying about our future. We still had some savings, but it wouldn’t last forever. Then we heard terrible stories about the refugee shelter in the Zeelandhallen, where children were pulled off their bicycles by men who were staying there. In a TV interview, they stated without any shame: “Hello, we’re just men. Should we do it somewhere else?”
It seemed like the world was going crazy. Our children would cycle past there in the future. We wondered if this was the place where we could continue to live. We could no longer afford our house anyway. What now?
We tried several times to stop benefits, but nothing went according to plan. The problems piled up, and the world around us seemed to become increasingly grim. Our health began to suffer greatly from the stress. Stress was not exactly a good companion for a healthy and carefree life. The stories of others emerged more and more often: children who were removed from their homes, parents who screamed for help but apparently were not heard.
The year 2016 marked our departure from the Netherlands, in search of a new start abroad. The decision was not taken lightly and brought with it some challenges and uncertainties. Our search for a new destination took us to Italy and Croatia, with our choice ultimately falling on Croatia. The country offered a regulated border yet was close to Europe. My WIA benefit could be taken into account, and the healthcare costs were considerably lower than in the Netherlands. We took the step in May 2016, thinking that after a few months we would know whether this would become our new home.
The preparation was intensive, and summer arrived before everything was arranged. We had rented a house that we liked in the summer, but after some heavy rain showers we realized that it would be too small for the winter period. So we started the search for a new home. Fellow residents helped in the hope that we could stay in the village. After all, there were plenty of vacant houses. But it turned out to be a difficult task. Finally, we found shelter in Sveti Lovrec.
Croatia meant a completely different culture to us. We spent three years looking for an affordable home, purely out of necessity, as renting was simply too expensive. There was an unwritten rule: If you come from the West, you are rich and you have enough money. This meant that everything was simply more expensive for Western Europeans, sometimes even up to three times the price. After three years we had finally found a house that we could buy, albeit in a very neglected state. Our renovation project became our life mission.
Back in the Netherlands, the tax authorities started collecting, and together with municipalities, health insurance companies and the CIJB, they made life increasingly difficult. The municipality and health insurance appeared to be able to arrange this quickly, as we could demonstrate that these costs had already been paid. The CIJB, on the other hand, brought a new nightmare. Our insurer had already labeled us as emigrated during our ‘trial period’ in Croatia, even though we still owned our house in the Netherlands. This caused us to drive without insurance and receive two fines. This was a hard blow as we thought we were insured. Unfortunately, our intermediary “Jack van Riet in Goes” could not be found, and we could only point to the insurance company. We lost money and received fines for violations we committed in a country where we no longer even lived.
We struggled with stress and financial problems for four years, and in the end, we were proven right: our business had long since stopped. But in addition to financial losses, there was no chance of getting the money back because we had not filed an appeal within six weeks, despite not having access to the online information with the tax authorities after the company closed.
Life in Croatia offered hope of a new start, but our struggles and stress continued to haunt us, with each obstacle dragging us into a never-ending challenge.
2021 was the year that we received an A4 envelope from Prime Minister Mark Rutte. With apologies for the inconvenience. With this cardboard sheet, we should wipe everything away and restore it. Unfortunately, that is really no longer feasible. The personal damage had now become so great that an A4 piece of cardboard with apologies cannot compensate. We sold our 2 houses without a real estate agent because we simply did not have the money for it. And now, 5 years after the sale, we have discovered that the appraisal report is completely incorrect. Despite the plot numbers being neatly listed, it now appears that we have not sold 2 houses but a house with a shed and asbestos roof on it. While our old fire station simply has a roof with roof tiles, just like the house at the front. 2 house numbers so 2 houses. I lost contact with my parents after we left; they were often more to themselves and we thought it would all pass. We had no idea that acquaintances of my parents told us that we live in Belgium and manage a campsite. And during my mother’s illness, we searched for the bad news in that region (1400 km in the other direction). By chance, I became aware of the disease and I contacted them, which was difficult because their current home had been demolished and they had moved. But I was too late. My mother had already died, and all we could do was stare at her urn and see my father grieve like a little boy. We had a Cathuis arrangement. We immediately bought a reasonable car because the children really have to go to school every day. Our house was and is not yet finished, so we invested a large amount of money into it. Because during construction, companies also left with the advance payment. Unfortunately, the house is too warm in summer and too cold in winter. But we have hope that this will work out in the future. Our hope is placed on the CWS, the Actual Damage Committee because, according to our lawyer, we are a large and complex case with very large losses. But everyone reads the news and can also read between the lines and also realizes that the whole purpose of recovery is weakening enormously. Many people are also sent into the reeds with a clod. So we still have to see whether all this will still take place.
Since 2021, we have been recognized as victims, but the fight for justice only seems to be intensifying. Together with 985 other families abroad, we cannot simply walk to the town hall as in the Netherlands. The Kingdom of the Netherlands has engaged RadarAdvies (now consultancy.nl and .org) to take responsibility for this. The Abroad Support Team (OTB) was set up to be a virtual town hall for the 985 families abroad. According to the established rules, this team should provide exactly the same support as a regular town hall. But unfortunately, this turns out not to be the case.
Our first case manager never reached out, the second was abusive to me and my family, but then our 3rd case manager came. She was a gift from heaven, especially because we were dealing with intense trauma within our family at that time. Despite her support and promises, this never led to a solution. She was fired, as were many others, and we were left with questions and unfulfilled commitments that we had already incurred charges for on our credit card. We had hope, but it was taken away from us.
Now we have two case managers, most likely in response to the many complaints we have filed. Our request to pick up our storage unit in the Netherlands was given the green light in February 2023. During this visit, we were also able to visit the grave of my now-deceased mother, as we were unable to fly due to expired passports. For the State of the Netherlands, this was undoubtedly a cheaper solution than the many solutions they offer to families returning to the Netherlands. But for us, there was no way back. Our physical condition was so bad that my wife could not even work, let alone pay for gas, water, and electricity.
RadarAdvies should have given better advice. With more than 200 consultants, they should have understood that such a journey would take its toll on our 14-year-old car. This trip involved countless expenses and repairs, and we were left to our own devices. We paid for everything with our debit card and kept receipts, but weeks passed without any notice. No contact, no news, no messages. Stunned and defeated, we no longer understood anything about this situation. Months later we suddenly received an email suggesting that they would put our file on ‘aftercare’ if we did not want to be helped. While we just waited patiently.
The support that many people receive in the Netherlands is not at all comparable to the support we receive abroad. We have never received any allowance for energy or healthcare costs. We have to live without a freezer and dryer for months, while in the Netherlands entire houses and gardens are being furnished or thousands of euros are being spent on a home office because someone decides to go to college. Unfortunately, we experience a completely different reality abroad.
Every parent who is recognized as a victim of the benefits affair deserves nothing less than equal help and support. Our story is just one of many that have been scarred by the injustice that has occurred. It is a story of many obstacles we have had to overcome to access the right help and support.
This fight is not just about us, but about all the victims who suffered like us. Everyone affected by the benefits affair, regardless of where they are, deserves the same level of care and attention from the government. It is a matter of justice, equality, and humanity.
We will share the challenges and disappointments we have experienced in our pursuit of equitable relief. We will emphasize the importance of ensuring that all victims are treated fairly and that steps are taken to ensure that no one is left behind in this painful aftermath.
This is the story of our ongoing fight for justice and our desire to be the voice for those who have suffered like us. Together we will continue to fight for equal help and fair treatment for all victims of the benefit scandal.
This is a story of injustice, resilience, and an unyielding quest for justice. As victims of the benefits scandal, we have endured years of hardship, facing the loss of homes, finances, and our network, and even the tragic loss of loved ones without goodbye. We fled the Netherlands in search of a new start, but our fight for recovery and justice has never stopped.
In our search for recognition and equal help, we have been confronted with obstacles, discrimination, and bureaucracy. But we never gave up. Our experiences with case managers, government agencies, and consultancy firms have taught us that not everyone receives the same help. We have seen that policies often seem to revolve around lining the pockets of those at the top, while leaving the victims out in the cold.
Still, we didn’t give up. We made our voices heard, filed complaints, and fought for equal treatment. We fought not only for ourselves, but for all the victims who have suffered unjustly because of this affair.
It’s time for change. Everyone who has been recognized as a victim deserves the same level of care, support, and compassion, regardless of where they are. It is a matter of justice and equality.
Our journey through the dark and challenging times of the benefits affair has taught us that we are stronger than we ever dreamed. But we can’t do this alone. We need your help to make a new start in life.
The burden of loss, discrimination, and financial hardship has scarred us, but we refuse to give up. Our desire for justice to prevail is stronger than ever before. We want justice not only for ourselves but for all the victims of this affair, wherever they are.
To continue our fight and pave the way to recovery, we need resources. We must overcome the financial burdens we have incurred during this difficult journey. We want to make a new start, rebuild our lives, and look ahead to a future free from the shadows of the past.
That’s why we’re asking for your help today. Every contribution, big or small, brings us one step closer to achieving justice and creating a new start for our family. With your support, we can ease our financial burden and work toward a future full of hope and possibility.
If you believe in justice, equality, and the power of collaboration, we invite you to be part of our mission. Together we can make a difference and show that the power of community is stronger than any adversity.
Join our fundraising and help us on the road to recovery and justice. Your support means the world to us, and we are grateful for any contribution you can make.
Let’s build a better future together and let justice prevail. Thank you for your support.
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