In a letter to the House of Representatives, Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf once again calls it a “particularly worrying signal” that fraud detection with regard to the basic student grant mainly affects those with a migration background.
The minister informs the House that the DPA initiated an investigation this week, assuring members that “full cooperation and access to documents will be provided by DUO staff”. The DPA is an independent regulator charged with monitoring the protection of personal data.
It appears that DUO itself also wanted to know more about this issue. Back in December, the agency reportedly asked the central government audit service to look into its compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation when seeking to identify abuses of the basic student grant.
Students are awarded a higher basic grant if they no longer live in their parental home. The difference amounts to approximately two thousand euros a year. This leads some students to falsely claim that they are no longer living with their parents. DUO carries out home visits and neighbourhood surveys in order to check these claims.
But research by HOP, Investico and NOSop3 has revealed that students from migration backgrounds are much more likely to be targeted than others. Moreover, it appeared that DUO has made little or no effort to reflect on this practice.
Independent and External
DUO also plans to take a critical look at its own procedures, Dijkgraaf writes. This internal audit will cover the data they use and their system of checks. The human element in the assessment process will also come under scrutiny.
Dijkgraaf’s letter continues, “As announced, entirely separate from DUO’s own investigation, I intend to order an independent external investigation into DUO’s policy on fraud with regard to students living away from home.”
Among other things, he wants clarification of “the extent to which this system leads or could lead to discrimination, either directly or indirectly”. He also wants to know why this possible discrimination only came to light when pointed out by journalists and was not picked up within DUO itself, “especially given earlier experiences with the implementation of childcare allowance”.