“Until further notice, I want checks to be carried out only by means of a random sample of students living away from home, without any other search criteria”, Dijkgraaf said in the House of Representatives last night. The move was prompted by the news from HOP, Investico and NOSop3 that students with a migration background are more likely to be targeted by DUO.
“I would point out that this random sampling is undoubtedly less effective”, he added, “but given the circumstances, I think it is the most sensible thing we can do.”
MP Jeanet van der Laan (D66) had submitted a motion requesting that this step be taken. She said that this news should “set off all the alarm bells”, a view with which Dijkgraaf agreed.
GroenLinks and DENK had also tabled motions on the detection of fraud with the basic student grant. Stephan van Baarle (DENK) fears a “new childcare benefits scandal” and is calling for an investigation aimed at identifying the number of cases in which the potential indirect discrimination “caused harm to the persons concerned”. The Minister must ensure that any abuses are “immediately and permanently” corrected.
Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks) wants the burden of proof in detection to revert to DUO. This is in light of the problem, amongst others, that DUO only needs to demonstrate plausibly that a student is actually still living with his parents, while a live-out student will have difficulty proving otherwise following such a suspicion.
As Education Minister, Dijkgraaf was obliged to respond to all the motions submitted. He repeated that he was shocked by the reports: “It simply shouldn’t be the case that certain, specific groups are singled out during checks, even where it happens unintentionally. The painful lessons of the childcare benefits scandal mean that the government and DUO are more than ever duty-bound to investigate thoroughly every sign or indication of discrimination.”
However, he is unwilling to make up for any past mistakes immediately. “It is far too early to be talking of some kind of compensation for specific individuals”, Dijkgraaf said. Also, he is unwilling to commit to ensuring that the burden of proof would revert to DUO. He first wants an investigation to be conducted, before considering any change in policy.
MPs are due to vote on the motions next Tuesday.