photo: Pixabay

THE BOTTOM/ORANJESTAD – “I believe the Dutch Government should increase the child allowance because grocery stores on Statia are getting more and more expensive. I think a lot of people are suffering besides me”, stated Statian Gina Hassell.

Hassell continued, “I started receiving child allowance for my children around April 2016. It comes at the end of the month and I purchase snacks for school such as juice or fruit.”

Islands left out
The decision-making process regarding an increase in the child allowances for Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba has not been concluded as yet. The House of Representatives of the Dutch Parliament demanded clarity from the Dutch Government as to why the families on the BES islands are not benefiting from the additional one billion euros that will become available for the child allowance, the child day-care allowance and the child-related budget as per January 1, 2019.

In the Netherlands, the child benefit per child is €202.23 between the ages of 0-5 years, €245.57 for ages 6-11, and € 288.90 for ages 12-17. The amounts mentioned are per quarter. While on Saba and St. Eustatius, $42 is given per child per month.

“I have two children for which I receive €350 per child plus €200 every four months. This money is then used to purchase school clothes, baby food, and things for daycare. These child allowances are sufficient as there is money left over after all expenses are paid”, said Eldica Gomez.

Gomez continued, “I’ve left the island for about 1 year now and If I had to live on Saba with my two children, $42 per child would not help with the bills. I honestly think it’s hard for my friends and family that live on Saba and I would suggest that the child allowance be $150.

Mothers struggle
Saban Henrietta Hassell explained, “Some single mothers, like myself work 2 or 3 jobs, just to make ends meet. However, I’m living with my mother for now to save on extra expenses such as the rent and electricity bills. The $120 for my three children definitely helps with purchasing of groceries.”

Hassell continues, “If this amount can be increased, then it should. For single mothers who live on their own, of course it’s very difficult for them as they have more bills such as rent, and water for the cistern. The child allowance may not be enough, but I’m sure it helps with some things at the end of the month.”

Future hope
On Prince’s Day, King Willem-Alexander stated in his speech, “On Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the government is taking specific measures to tackle poverty. In these Caribbean parts of the Nether-lands, employers’ social security contributions will be reduced by 5%, which in turn will allow the minimum wage and benefits to be raised by 5%. In addition, €30 million will be made available for poverty reduction, infrastructure and economic development.”

“Any increase towards the cause is a help but, what is a fair increase is another question. The 5% increase is tailored for those who might meet the requirements for social welfare but what about the remainder of the community that are struggling on a daily basis”, said Island Council member Monique Wilson.

Wilson continued, “Prior to the $42 child allowance there was no option, therefore it has been a minor relief. However when you have in-depth conversations with parents and guardians who are receiving the benefit it is evident that it is a drop in the bucket of expenses that they are needing to fulfill. A fair assessment of what the costs are to care for a child on Saba will explore what is the true support that is needed that will give greater long term effects.”

“When people realize that there is an increase in the child allowance they will be grateful for it especially if the increase can help reduce their financial responsibilities whilst empowering them to be proactive caregivers”, ended Monique Wilson.