NETHERLANDS | The National Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Children and the Ombudsman for Veterans presented their annual report to the Dutch House of Representatives

Existing laws and regulations provide the government with enough room to properly help citizens. Yet, in practice, the government often solves problems with even more laws, regulations and complex processes, while these do not prevent or solve most of the citizens’ problems. It is not introducing even more systems that would help citizens, but changes in the government’s behaviour. This what the National Ombudsman, Ombudsman for Children and the Ombudsman for Veterans highlighted in their 2023 Annual Report entitled ‘Citizen’s perspective: a way of doing things’.

National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen: “It took 420 days, on average, for a law to be dealt with in parliament last year. And this is excluding the preparation time. This is valuable time for citizens who need a quicker solution. Particularly now that there is a lot of talk about improving the relationship between citizens and government, it is about time that citizens actually notice and see those improvements.

The National Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Children and the Ombudsman for Veterans are there to help people, including children and veterans, when things go wrong. Citizens, children and veterans contacted us more than 22,000 times last year. For all these cases, the Ombudsmen determined whether the government authorities focused on the citizens’ perspective and whether human and children’s rights were observed.

Personal contact

The government still acts insufficiently in terms of the question: what is a proper way of dealing with it? Even though the answer is often simple: personal contact and listening to the needs of citizens and children. It is a duty of the government to seek out citizens themselves. To listen. And then do what is necessary.

Government is stubborn

Government departments make little use of the knowledge and experience gained in previous redress processes.” This emerged from investigations carried out by the Ombudsman into situations in which citizens were affected and where the government provided support in remedying the situation. An example of the government being stubborn is the fact that they want to place too much focus on financial accountability and control, such as in the settlement of the Childcare Allowance Affair. “This slows down the process and makes it complicated, while citizens want clear, simple and quick settlements.

Thinking in terms of problems rather than opportunities

The government thinks in terms of problems rather than opportunities, which means that they themselves delay much-needed changes in the services they provide.” In doing so, the government hides behind obstacles that do not actually exist. This includes the fact that the contact with citizens, for example, can only be done through the formal route. “It would seem that the answers that the government provides in accordance with the system makes them feel more secure than seriously engaging with people to find an appropriate solution.


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Source: National Ombudsman of the Netherlands

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