More lenient enforcement is fine, but start by simplifying Social Security

'What remains underemphasized is the fact that people have made it so complicated that citizens don't understand it.' - Ben van der Hee

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From the draft Social Security Enforcement Bill published by Social Affairs Minister Karien van Gennip and Poverty Minister Carola Schouten, there will be an end to harsh punitive policies in Social Security. That this will be treated more leniently is a good development. But there are two other issues that - as far as I am concerned - are in need of improvement.

What remains underexposed is the fact that it has been made so complicated that citizens do not understand it. People make mistakes without being aware of them, and are then punished for them. The system must therefore be rigorously simplified, so that unintentional errors can be avoided and intended errors can be recognized much more easily. By making laws and regulations less complicated you can prevent a lot of misery.

Organised distrust
The second point has to do with trust. We know from research that people are very afraid of making mistakes in matters related to the IRS or the UWV. If you want benefits you have to be able to prove a number of job applications per month. That is then enforced. This is organized distrust, ingrained in the system. This causes the service to be perceived as repressive instead of supportive. Then you can say, we are going to check less, but that leaves you with a system error.

More trust is needed in the interaction between government and citizens. For many people, for example, the obligation to apply for a job is not an effective behavioral incentive. In fact, it perverts, because chances are that out of fear of making mistakes, people will focus primarily on things that are being monitored. That is not an effective behavioral incentive. The government should focus more on facilitation than control.

Cause: Kabinet trekt streep door fraudebeleid