The law of participation is constantly evolving. The law is currently very complex and stringent in a number of areas. The government therefore wants to achieve balance in the participation law so that it takes into account, among other things, the “humanitarian dimension.” What does this mean for engagement professionals?
In practice, we see that more and more judges are already applying the human touch. They base their statement on the principle of proportionality: is the decision appropriate and necessary to achieve the intended goal or is it also possible, for example, with a less radical alternative?
The draft “Balance Participation Law” expresses the desire to make room for the human dimension, so that it can respond to individual situations and offer tailored solutions. “This doesn't mean you offer tailored solutions for every situation,” says Ray Girling, consultant, director, social domain coach, and spokesperson for the Social Domain Knowledge Center. “As engagement professionals, we must ask ourselves why this law exists, and what do we want to achieve with it? So there is nothing wrong with setting an eye on individuality and having the freedom to offer solutions tailored to achieve this goal.
The law is scheduled to change on January 1, 2025, but that doesn't mean engagement professionals are waiting for it. “Implementers are already anticipating a large number of components,” Geerling says. “You see that municipalities are already starting to change their policy on a number of points and that judges are increasingly applying the principle of proportionality.”
“Thinking with the resident”
Pinar Mermer is the legal advisor for the social field at EIFFEL and supports clients with projects in the field of (political) legal advice, objections and appeals. She sees firsthand that judges are becoming more flexible with social assistance rules, to the benefit of social assistance recipients, and that civil servants are being sent to do the same. “We increasingly have to look at what is a good solution for each individual case,” says Mermer, who often opts for customization. “I hear from colleagues that they lose cases where the frameworks are too clear, but the more serious the harms to the resident, the more you are required to reason with that person and find an appropriate solution to the problem.”
Judges are increasingly interested in applying the human touch. When the interests affected by the decision are more important, the negative consequences are more serious or the decision seriously violates fundamental rights, the evaluation is more intense. When one of these factors comes into play, personalization can offer a solution.
“Dedicated to more confidence”
According to Girling, giving engagement professionals the opportunity to provide tailored solutions is not only good for achieving the desired goal, but also positive for citizen confidence.
There is a lack of trust between the population and the general government, which is what we want to restore.
“But how do you do it? In part, by paying more attention as a government to citizens’ problems and by providing tailored solutions for residents.
A new way of working for an income advisor
Mermer notes that she is one of the few professionals who spends a lot of time providing customized solutions. As an objection and appeals officer, she only hears the case if the resident appeals the decision. The income counselor is the first to evaluate the right to social assistance. According to Mermer, it would be useful if they also take individual situations into account: “They should also think about what is possible for the resident.”
Investigate the circumstances
“As an objection and appeals clerk, you should distance yourself from the income advisor's decision and look at the situation for yourself,” she advises her colleagues. Although she recognizes that not every case requires personalization and that it is not always desirable, she hopes engagement specialists will more often investigate a resident's circumstances and make their decisions based on that.
More work for engagement professionals
Mermer agrees that doing research leads to more work. As an example, she cites a case in which €150,000 (about ten years of social assistance) was refunded because someone receiving social assistance also had income from work. “These amounts do not correspond to reality, but serve as an imaginary example: suppose you are entitled to social assistance worth 1,500 euros and you earn three hundred euros yourself. “Then you will receive an additional amount of 1,200 euros,” Mermer explains. “But if you don’t If you can prove what you earned, we will get the full amount back.” Mermer then sets up a fictitious wage for such a resident. “If you know how much you worked, I know what someone in the same position earns and calculate the income.” This means that you do not have to pay back 150,000 euros. But, for example, three thousand euros. “This is more realistic and is often accepted by residents, because you made your decision based on their situation,” Mermer says.
A study like this requires more work, but you are really helping the population.
Girling also recognizes that the human dimension means that… Workload The intensity of work will increase. “This is linked to the increasingly complex and diverse problems of residents who rely on the social sphere,” he explains. Gerling hopes that the work of the participatory professional will be better regulated in the future. “If we automate the bulk of the work, more time will be freed up for the problems we have to solve through customization.”
Personalization isn't always the answer
Although it offers many benefits, customization is not always the answer. Mermer stresses the danger of inequality by saying: “There are no set rules and every official is different.” She warns that too much focus on personalization can lead to arbitrary decision-making. Although the new law provides more room for customization, a careful balance must also be maintained, Geerling adds. “You can also over-allocate, which undermines the legal framework and creates arbitrariness,” he points out. Striking this balance is crucial to avoid compromising the legal basis of the law and to ensure that the decision-making process remains fair and consistent.
The first step
Girling calls for systematically examining the way public government interacts with its population and translating those needs into decision-making. Girling: “The magic of the social field is that you apply the changing world to the profession you are in.” He believes that amending the Libra Participation Law is a first step to meet the changing needs of society.
What can engagement professionals do now?
Make sure you stay up to date on the latest developments and stay in touch with your colleagues to learn with and from each other. For example during Training day on the National Participation Law On March 12, the event is for policy officers, social assistance counselors, income counselors, client managers and other engagement professionals. In addition to existing knowledge and skills, this is also a good time to network with colleagues and employers in the field. Would you like to learn more about the training day or register immediately? Click here.
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