‘A call for clarity!’ This is the title of the third joint annual report published by the National Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Children and the Ombudsman for Veterans, and presented to parliament today by the National Ombudsman, Reinier van Zutphen. The way in which the society has organised the public services has become very complex in recent years. Not least for the citizens. They are expected to take a more active role and to organise things for themselves. But how they should go about this and who they can turn to for help or support is often unclear. There is a lack of clear guidance and structure. The Ombudsman has appealed to parliament to make smart and clear choices so that policy and implementation are future-proof. That way everyone will know where they stand, today and tomorrow.
In recent years, a major shift towards decentralisation has been implemented with the aim of bringing the government closer to its citizens. In 2019, the National Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Children and the Ombudsman for Veterans found that this is not yet the case. In fact, the distance between the government and its citizens seems to have increased rather than decreased.
Reinier van Zutphen explains: “In almost every field in which we are active, we found evidence of a lack of structure and clarity. Not only the citizens themselves, but also local and regional authorities, lack clear guidance or the opportunity to influence their situation. And if municipalities outsource certain tasks to other organisations, many in the private sector, where does the ultimate responsibility lie? As a result, people find themselves dealing with a different kind of government, one they no longer feel they know. This calls for a government that can provide clarity and structure.”
The National Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children are therefore making a fourfold appeal to politicians, administrators and executives:
- Be honest about what the government does and does not do. Be transparent about the role of government and that of the citizen in specific situations.
- Trust your citizens. The government is expecting more and more from its citizens, yet often fails to give them the options or the trust to organise things for themselves. A mistake is easily made. The government is there to help in such cases, not to impose sanctions that only make the problems worse.
- Put the child’s best interests first in all life decisions and involve the child in the decision-making process. The central question is: what does this child need and how are we going to make it happen?
- Provide clarity, guidance and structure! Make smart and clear choices so that policy and implementation are future-proof. That way everyone will know where they stand, now and in the future.
This annual report covers the year 2019: the year before the coronavirus transformed life throughout the world at a single stroke.
Source: The National Ombudsman, The Netherlands