Ensuring that citizens and children are involved in decisions that affect them. Upholding fundamental (children’s) rights in cases of evictions and migration. The question of whether (and, if so, how) the government is learning from experiences in its compensation programmes. These are just some of the issues from the Ombuds Agenda 2023 on which the National Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Children and the Ombudsman for Veterans will be focusing particular attention this year.
The Ombuds Agenda 2023 includes six themes, each made up of several multi-annual programmes. Across each programme, we are planning investigations, activities and recommendations and will be monitoring whether our suggestions for improvement have been adopted by the government. The themes broadly reflect wider problems in society and the 30,000 complaints and communications we receive every year about the relationship between citizens and government.
The ombudsmen believe it is important for citizens and children to have an influence on decisions that affect them. Having a say and participating can help boost support for government policy and increase citizens’ trust in the government.
In early 2023, we will be completing investigations into participation and influence within the Social Support Act and the Participation Act. We are also launching an investigation into participation and influence in the Youth Act.
In anticipation of the Environment and Planning Act and new legislation to strengthen participation at local level, we are updating the National Ombudsman’s Participation Guide and the Ombudsman for Children’s ‘The Best Decision’ tool kit. The Participation Guide provides direction in how to handle citizens’ input and consultation properly. ‘The Best Decision’ tool kit helps professionals to prioritise children’s interests in decision-making.
Investigation into compensation programmes
Several compensation programmes are running in which the government has to compensate groups of citizens, children, veterans and entrepreneurs for damages. These include the child allowance affair, the damage caused by gas exploration in Groningen and Drenthe, working with Chromium VI at the Ministry of Defence and the floods in Limburg. The National Ombudsman is launching an investigation into these programmes. We will explore whether (and, if so, how) the government is learning from experiences in current and completed compensation programmes.
Evictions and migration
The upholding of fundamental (children’s) rights by the government is an important theme for the ombudsmen. We are focusing particular attention on housing, migration and deprivation of liberty.
At the start of this year, the National Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children completed an investigation into evictions involving families in vulnerable situations. This revealed that the government is not always meeting its obligations in terms of human and children’s rights when families are being forced out of their homes. In 2023, we are conducting a (follow-up) investigation into the evictions of families forced to leave their homes because of demolition or renovation work.
In the field of migration, the National Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children are launching an investigation into issues in the asylum system.
The Ombudsman for Veterans understands that the care provided for veterans in detention is not as it should be. We will therefore be investigating whether the recommendations made in the light of our previous investigation into veterans in detention (2021) are being properly applied. Where necessary, we will make efforts to make sure they are.
The ombudsmen note that increasing numbers of citizens face financial worries because of the rising cost of living. In 2023, the National Ombudsman will therefore be investigating whether and to what extent municipalities are succeeding in reaching residents who face financial issues on time and are providing help before the problems become worse. We will also be monitoring action on recommendations from three previous investigations into problems faced by asylum seekers with refugee status, young people on welfare benefits and young disabled persons. The Ombudsman for Children would like to see a strategy for childhood poverty in place across all areas of life where children’s development is impeded. For this reason, the Ombudsman for Children is advising the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SWZ) on the further development of the National Child Guarantee Plan and the approach being taken to tackle money worries, poverty and debt.
New theme: Life-course and development
Problems such as poverty, criminality and violence can be passed down through the generations. In 2023, the Ombudsman for Children is investigating how family problems affect children's lives and development and influence their trust in politics and society.
The Ombuds Agenda 2023 is made up of the following six themes: Fundamental Rights, Participation and Influence, Access to Public Services, Poverty, Quality of Life and, finally, Life-course and Development. Read more about our activities in the different multi-annual programmes for each theme.