At the beginning of this summer, the Youth Education Fund spent about 700,000 euros more than last year to help primary school children. Not on books or tutoring, but on basic needs such as sufficient food and drink.
Due to the cost crisis, more parents sometimes simply do not have the money for this. “The development of these children is under pressure,” Hans Spek of the Youth Education Fund told NU.nl.
Spek is “very concerned” about the development of children with parents in financial need. Instead of supporting children with books, tutoring and teaching equipment, the fund now spends a lot of money on basic needs to allow children to go to school normally.
According to Rogier Kievit, professor of developmental neuroscience at Radboudumc, the cost crisis leads to stress among parents. “And the more stress there is at home, the less attention is paid to the development of the child.”
According to Spek, it is an acute problem: “One in four children does not get enough breakfast.” He cites examples of children who do not have a normal bed to sleep in or children who are not yet toilet trained, but who have to manage without diapers.
The basic needs are of course the most important, because without food a child cannot function. “But the fund is there to contribute to the entire development of a child and we can’t do that now,” explains Spek.
Kieviet calls the concerns of the Youth Education Fund more than justified. “The crisis is a risk factor for a delay in a child’s development,” says the professor.
First signals were already there before summer
The fund already saw a shift before the summer. More and more schools signed up. 445 primary schools are now affiliated with the Youth Education Fund, but in the Netherlands up to 1,800 schools are eligible.
An affiliated school may request 10,000 euros to spend on extra transport, books or tutoring, for example. But there is now almost no money for this, because the Youth Education Fund now mainly receives applications for basic needs. And the fund finds this a worrying development. “It is important that we focus on the development of these children. A child needs more than just food and a bed.”
Differences between children are getting bigger
According to Spek, the Youth Education Fund is currently working beyond its means. “We had a budget of 5.5 million euros this year, so we went over that by about 700,000 euros.” A contribution from the National Postcode Lottery, originally intended for 2024, could be brought forward to make ends meet. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have made it,” he says.
The fund is moderately positive about the new government measures: “We are happy with the price ceiling and the minimum wage, but more needs to be done.”