Expatica news

Social services ‘failing’ problem families

3 December 2003

AMSTERDAM — In the aftermath of the death of six children in a Roermond blaze last year, an inquiry has found that social work assistance offered to problem families seriously falls short of the mark.

Schools, youth care agencies, social work institutes, health authority GGD and municipal authorities were also accused of not working together in a coherent manner.  The inquiry claimed that they were only interested in their own organisation, rather than helping problem youngsters.

The Education, Youth Social Work, Public Order and Safety and Healthcare inspectorates — together with the Verwey-Jonker Instituut, a research bureau involved in social issues — launched the inquiry following the July 2002 arson deaths.

The father of the six dead children confessed to setting fire to their house and was jailed for 15 years and compulsory TBS psychiatric detention in February 2003. The family’s problems were well known to authorities and an investigation was previously conducted into the assistance offered by local social work groups.
And in the latest report, the inspectorates pleaded for improved co-operation between institutes and regular assessments. They also demanded that social workers try to work more efficiently. It has long been known that the bureaucracy of youth care has negatively affected the effectiveness of youth care.

But Health State Secretary Clemence Ross said on Wednesday it was step forward that the various organisations had worked together to compile the report. She also said the recommendations were of great importance, NOS reported.
Ross intends to push through legislative change aimed at making the social work assistance given to problem families more effective and efficient. Social work is currently the responsibility of municipalities and the Dutch provincial governments.

The state secretary is also keen to launch a system of “family coaches” across the country. The province of Limburg is currently conducting an experiment which involves family coaches co-ordinating the social services offered to problem households.

Families encountering problems often have to deal with a large number of social workers, but the coach will be instructed to support the family in times of crisis and shape the type of social work assistance offered to eliminate communication problems between the various organisations.

A coach will not need to go through all the procedures if problems arise, but will be allowed to press an alarm bell should he or she consider it necessary. The coach does not necessarily have to be a professional social worker, but can also be a family member or neighbour.

And despite recent across the board budgetary cuts, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has allocated extra funding to its youth policy, up from an additonal EUR 22 million next year to EUR 77 million more in 2007.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news