Getting out of debt; the road to self-reliance

Poverty and debt are major problems both for people with debt and society as a whole. Some people accumulate debt because they borrow more than they are able to repay, but more often than not, financial problems pile up because people have trouble paying their fixed costs such as healthcare insurance, rent and utilities. Although the majority of people with debt are on welfare, welfare recipients are not the only ones getting into trouble; more and more people with jobs, particularly the self-employed, are also struggling.

For a large group of people with debt, society’s inherent complexity is too great for them to solve their problems alone. They are up against an incomprehensible web of regulations, allowances, taxes and so on, and many even stop opening their mail, ultimately just giving up. It can be difficult to turn the tide once debts start piling up.

Temporary employees and the self-employed have been hit particularly hard over the past year as a result of the corona crisis. Government relief measures can provide the self-employed with temporary protection from bankruptcy, but the question is whether or not they’ll be able to keep their heads above water in the near future. The childcare benefits scandal that came to light in 2020 proves how the rules and laws can also cause things to go terribly wrong. The Dutch tax authorities accused an entire group of families of making fraudulent benefit claims on their childcare benefits applications. This drove these families into severe financial hardship, causing them to run up major debt and end up in terrible situations.

An estimated one and a half million people have problematic debt or run the risk of this. Most households with debt do not get formal debt assistance. The approval criteria are strict, the procedures complicated, and there are long waiting periods. People applying for debt assistance have average debts totaling around 40,000 Euros.

Lurking behind all of these figures is a tremendous amount of personal suffering. Anyone with debt also often suffers from an accumulation of psychological and social problems. If a gift is too expensive, you have to forgo birthday parties. Going for a drink or night out on the town with friends is a substantial problem. These situations are usually a huge source of shame and puts those in debt at a high risk of stigmatization and isolation.

Early detection and prevention of social isolation

In order to prevent isolation, it’s important for people to get help at an early stage. Personal attention and help from buddies focuses on these problems. Buddies from Schuldhulpmaatje are trained volunteers who provide direct assistance online or in person to help these individuals get their finances in order, or plan and manage their spending. Some of these buddies have been through a debt process of their own and are able to provide help based on their own experiences.

Employers often also play a role in alerting others to problems when they see their employees asking for advances on their salaries, or when creditors garnishee their wages. Employers can offer help through the fiKks app that enables people with financial problems to seek personal help, anonymously, from a colleague. This buddy is a volunteer trained by fiKks.

Help with imminent debt

Even though some people don’t have debt that is problematic, they can still find themselves in a vulnerable situation. A broken washing machine or bicycle a child needs to get to school becomes an insurmountable expense. When people are facing acute and urgent expenses that they are not in a position to bear themselves, Fonds Bijzondere Noden Rotterdam (FBNR) can provide support to prevent these types of costs from leading to debt problems.

One out of every 12 children in the Netherlands grows up in poverty. These children often can’t go on school trips, don’t have a bicycle or computer, or are unable to participate in activities that are very normal for their peers, due to financial reasons. Not only is this sad for these children, it also hinders them in their social development. Leergeld Nederland makes it financially possible for children to participate in activities both at and outside of their schools.

Effects of the crisis

Over the past year, the debt problem in the Netherlands has grown as compared to previous years. Many people lost their jobs as a result of the corona crisis. During the second quarter of 2020, the unemployment figure rose by 26%. Although the substantial financial support measures for businesses resulted in more people than normal finding work during the last three months of the year, the fear is that the major effects won’t be felt for a while yet once government support is cut back again. This will show which companies ultimately won’t survive and will have to start laying off employees. It will also become clear in the near future what the effect of the crisis will be on the self-employed and temporary employees.

The form of the debt problem that aid organizations in the Netherlands are focusing on is changing due in part to the corona crisis. Organizations are preparing for a changing group of clients because they expect the group of young people with debt to grow. They are also trying to get out in front of an increased surge of people in need of aid by actively looking for entrepreneurs who have had their own problems with debt and to deploy them as volunteers with expertise because of their experience in these matters.


It is important to us that everyone can fully participate in society. Debt and social isolation present a huge stumbling block to this. We support social initiatives designed to help people avoid debt so that no one has to face these problems alone.

About this program

We support organizations that assist people in need of help, and that don’t just provide direct support and relief, but also offer prospects for the future. We contribute to initiatives designed to prevent poverty, social isolation and intergenerational trauma. This is how we work on structural improvements for people in need of help.




In its efforts to help prevent debt and social isolation, Adessium works with Fonds Bijzondere Noden Rotterdam, Helden van de Wil, Leergeld Nederland, Schuldhulpmaatje, Stichting Urgente Noden Nederland and Van Schulden naar Kansen.

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