To somebody who suffers from hunger, a mediator is not of any use. Someone almost dying from thirst is saved by water, not by a course in water management. The same goes for poverty. You don't tackle poverty with courses, supervision, forced measures, or laws. You need money. Euros.
Guilt and debt
We are a rich country. For most people. Not so much for 1 million people who live their lives in poverty. The causes for that are manyfold: job loss, born in poverty, wrong choices, unexpected situations.
Most people end up living in poverty without guilt or intention. One of the problems is debt. Many do not come over debts. Because debts are stacked. Fines upon fines. Decreasing income. Housing rent increase. This was already happening before February 2020. And now we have to deal with a new problem: COVID-19. Job loss, lesser work hours, hiring freezes. Whatever the exact reason, 20% of Dutch citizens - mostly youth, freelancers and self-employed workers - saw a decrease in income because of the crisis. And these people more often than not do not have the biggest budget to start with.
Increasing call for help
Sure there is financial support for businesses. It's just that individuals can't take advantage of it, unless it prevents them from losing (part of) their job. And even business are not always helped, especially if the business is saved, but the entrepeneur as a person is not. To quote Nadja Jungman, lector debts at Hogeschool Utrecht:"Think about the entrepeneur with high rental expences who gets support for his employees, but loses his own income trying to keep up with standing charges."
Chances are that, because of these developments, the number of people living in poverty will keep growing for a while. Local humanitary organisations already see it happen: more than 46% of them notice an increase in calls for help since the start of the pandemic. Most people need food. De Volkrant headlines that planning offices like CPB and SCP predict that poverty will increase with 25% in the coming years, even if they do not take COVID-19 into account. This is mainly the result of policies around e.g. the cutting of welfare. Planning agencies do, however, see options to tackle the poverty problem. You can read about it here.
If you want to solve the poverty problem, you will need money. Lots of money. That often times gets stuck in between laws, rules and regulations. Of that doesn't really reach the people in need. We need change.
Kansfonds: give money
As a society we tend to not notice poverty. In Africa, yes, but in Utrecht? We do know it's there, and that it's growing, just like our average prosperity. The gap between rich and poor keeps getting bigger. We have the prosperity to bridge it. And, to quote Kansfonds: we have a right to bridge it.
Kansfond chooses a very practical, human and purposeful approach. Their inspiration was an amazing experiment, in which poor people received money, that they could spend on whatever they wanted, so they could improve their chances in life. And it worked! That's why Kansfond has started a roll-out of this exciting experiment in the Netherlands. To tackle poverty, by just giving money. Based on trust and a strong belief in empowerment.
Naieve? Or super promising?
The Londen experiment is not the only one pleasantly surprising people. In The New Leaf Project in Vancouver, 50 homeless people received $ 5.700 each, that that they could spend to their liking. After this, they were monitored for a year. The results were convincing en hopeful: the receivers spent 50% of their funding on rent, 15% on medication, 16% on transport and clothing. On top of that, they spent almost 40% less money on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. So what's holding back Kansfonds?
A big obstacle is: tax services. When people on welfare receive money, their welfare will be cut. It's in the rules of the game. Do you work for the government en do you know how we can solve that problem together? Please, send an email to email@example.com. And if you think: "yes, that's an experiment I would like to invest a couple thousand euros in!" please go to www.kansfonds.nl. Together we can do this. Shall we? firstname.lastname@example.org. En als je denkt “kijk, dat is nou eens een experiment waar ik wel eens een paar duizend euro in wil stoppen”, kijk dan even op www.kansfonds.nl. Samen zijn we prima in staat het armoedeprobleem op te lossen. Zullen we?
We dedicated our page long ad in FD of October 12 to this story. You can find it below.
Armoedefonds (2020). De impact van het coronavirus op de armoede in Nederland
Guzman, J. (2020). Researchers surprised by experiment that gave homeless people thousands of dollars. The Hill, 9 oktober 2020
Kansfonds (2020): Gewoon geld geven
SCP (2019). Waar ligt de armoedegrens?