Additional measures for urgent improvement of youth protection

The government is taking additional measures to relieve the pressure on youth protection agencies in the short term. Specifically, the measures aim to lighten the workloads of professionals, give priority to the most vulnerable children and avoid child protection orders for children from families with serious problems. By imposing a child protection order, a family court can compel the family involved to accept child-rearing support. The measures are necessary in light of the need to make urgent improvements to youth protection.

‘Each child has the right to grow up and develop in a safe home environment. When this right is threatened, families must be offered help and support to turn the situation around. As a last resort, the government can intervene in the family’s life for the protection of the child’, according to the responsible minister and state secretary in their letter to the House of Representatives. ‘We are deeply saddened that the help and support on offer currently fall short, despite the unceasing efforts of hard-working professionals. We appreciate the stakes and feel the sense of urgency.’

Lightening workloads

Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind and State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport Maarten van Ooijen intend to lighten the workloads of youth protection professionals by assigning some of their tasks to others, for instance to legal assistants or behavioural experts.

The government already announced a broad raft of measures to improve youth protection in September. This is now being expanded. As an example, the central government and the municipalities will make a sum of 20 million euros available next year to lighten the workloads of youth protection professionals, on top of 10 million euros spread out over several years to attract more experts from other disciplines to the profession. In addition, efforts are under way to speed up the introduction of long-term improvements. An important basic principle for the government in this respect is to heed the call from the sector to give it plenty of time to expand on existing best practices, instead of introducing new policies. This will prevent a further increase in workloads.

Priority for youth support

The minister and state secretary are calling on municipalities and providers to prioritise children who are the subject of a court-imposed protection order when approving requests for youth support. Exceptions should be made if the need of a child without a protection order is more urgent. An assessment framework to help municipalities and providers with these decisions will be introduced in the second quarter of next year.

Furthermore, the government will introduce measures to limit the number of referrals to youth protection agencies. In practice, too many youth protection referrals are being made in the case of – for instance – complex and messy divorces and child-rearing issues caused by high debts or addition in the family, whereas these could be prevented by offering help and support at an earlier stage. As a result, fewer children will need youth protection, relieving the pressure on agencies.