House majority against water barrier for families

House majority against water barrier for families

The majority in the House of Representatives wants families with children to no longer be deprived of water. The Children’s Ombudsman and the UN Special Rapporteur on Water and Sanitation are calling on Minister Mark Harbers (Infrastructure and Water Management) in Nieuwsuur to stop this. About 1 percent of households in the Netherlands have difficulty paying their water bills.

The Netherlands turns off the water for households in extreme cases where payment reminders and providing debt relief do not lead to a solution. According to the Children’s Ombudsman and UN rapporteur, children thus become victims of parents’ debts, while children’s right to water is enshrined in treaties.

Customize the shutdown policy

Exceptions to closure apply only to vulnerable consumers: those who can show they are sick or vulnerable and therefore at risk to health. The majority in the House of Representatives want children to fall under this definition. Secretary Harbers would have to adjust the closure policy for this. The minister has yet to respond to calls for an end to the isolation of families.

D66 is considering an emergency fund to prevent people from being cut off from their lives in poverty. Then the state pays the water bill. “Water is a basic necessity of life. Still, drinking water is cut off every year because households cannot pay their bills. This is terrible, especially when children are suffering,” says Hülya Kat, MP for D66.

“It is strange that families with children are deprived of clean drinking water. A few hundred euros a year is capital for a family in poverty, but peanuts for water companies,” says ChristenUnie MEP Pieter Grinwis. “Moreover, these companies are owned by municipalities. Municipalities doing everything they can to lift children out of poverty. In short, there is nothing more logical than to stop these shutdown policies.”

“Drinking water is very important for a child’s development. We believe that finances should not affect a child’s development, whether as a result of parental decisions or not,” says Laurens Dassen of Volt.

“People who are in a situation where even the water is cut off are probably having a lot of trouble already. Also, how much does it cost to close such a connection and then reconnect it, compared to other forms of support?” It angered Caroline van der BBB.

Separate editing

“I agree with the requests of the Children’s Ombudsman and the UN rapporteur. For me, children belong to the group of vulnerable consumers. Too little water poses major health risks. That’s why it’s important that children always have access to water, despite their parents’ debts,” said MP Pieter Omtzigt. SGP wants to exempt families with underage children from the water barrier in a separate regulation.

Coalition parties CDA and VVD do not support the call. “Drinking water companies have reached an agreement with the industry association for debt relief and social banks (NVVK). It was agreed that if households were in debt, they would not be deprived of water if they cooperated in debt relief. We think this is a good starting point,” says VVD MP Fahid Minhas.

Source: NOS