State unemployment insurer mistakenly persecuted customers

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A while back we reported about a mistake the Dutch unemployement insurer UWV made in which 3,000 formerly unemployed entrepreneurs had—often accidentally—committed fraud during a UWV led worker reintegration program after having been given some incorrect advice. It was the UWV who then made sure these misinformed people were fined, and in some cases, criminally prosecuted.

After a scorching indictment by the Dutch ombudsman in 2010, a parliamentary committee led by Ruud Vreeman collected 2,000 complaints, approximately half of which were by people who had been misled by UWV and who should get their money back. UWV will pay out about 5.2 million euro to its victims, Volkskrant reports.

UWV has instated its own appeal committee for the remaining thousand complainants led by law professor Irene Asscher-Vonk, who has already concluded that “a significant number” of the appellants have also been unjustly accused. Apparently the Vreeman committee never looked at all the complaints in detail, something Asscher-Vonk wants to rectify:

Asscher-Vonk does not just want to do justice to the unjustly suspected entrepreneurs, she also thinks it is important that UWV not be portrayed as a bunch of crooks. It must answer to suspicions of benefits misuse. “Mistakes have been made, but mistakes are made everywhere. UWV is an important and indispensable institution, and the reparation of trust is important.”

Interestingly, UWV pays on average 5,000 euro back per victim, but originally fined them 15,000 euro on average. That means either UWV will not pay back everything, or the real fraud in that pool of 3,000 entrepreneurs has been taking the insurer for much more than fifteen grand a pop.

(Photo of Atelier van Lieshout’s “Food Cart” by me—part of the Art Zuid set)

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