Social security or insecurity? The experience of welfare participation by financially vulnerable households in the Netherlands

  • Olaf Simonse Olaf Simonse
  • Eric van Dijk Eric van Dijk
  • Gabry Vanderveen Gabry Vanderveen
  • Lotte F. van Dillen Lotte F. van Dillen
  • Wilco van Dijk Wilco van Dijk

Social welfare aims to support financially vulnerable households by protecting them from financial shocks and providing them with a basic standard of living. Many eligible households, however, do not take up social welfare. We present the results of in-depth interviews with 31 members of financially vulnerable households in two large Dutch cities about their experiences with welfare. We examined the role of money in their lives, what inhibited them from taking up social welfare, and how they sought support. For many interviewed households, money was a source of stress. The fear of reclaims and mistrust of government institutions were the main inhibitors to participating in welfare programs. Whereas the experience of shame and stigma were substantial inhibitors for claiming local welfare benefits, they were not for participating in national welfare programs. Formal and informal help promoted welfare participation, but many participants lacked access to both. We discuss policies that could decrease the perceived uncertainty of benefits receipt and give directions for future research.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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