‘For some cases the lockdown has been helpful’

| Michaela Nesvarova

The corona crisis is a time of social isolation and stress, also at the UT. What is it like to keep track of people in vulnerable situations? ‘So far the work goes on as normal,’ says UT ombudsman Han Warmelink. ‘There haven’t been cases related specifically to corona, but those might appear in the coming months.’

In the past five weeks, the ombudsperson has received five new cases. As he says, this amounts to the usual ‘average’. ‘The workload and the types of issues have been pretty much the same as before. I was a bit surprised by that, because I expected there would be cases related to the corona crisis,’ says Warmelink. ‘I’m not sure if people are reluctant to contact me now, but so far I don’t get that impression.’

‘The cases I received in the past weeks were related to familiar topics, such as difficult working relationships, people feeling stressed and troubles with finishing PhD projects,’ continues the ombudsman. ‘These are all issues I had dealt with before. There was only one case distantly related to corona, more specifically to the closure of buildings. I expect to receive corona related cases later this year when people are dealing with the consequences of the crisis.’   

'I expect to receive corona related cases later this year'

Providing support only digitally has also not presented any major obstacles so far. ‘Of course the interaction is a bit different, but my main job is to provide a listening ear and give advice. I can continue to do that over the phone. It hasn’t prevented me from doing what I should be doing. Although I must admit that I don’t like the phone too much. Talking face to face is more comfortable and makes it easier to find the real problem. For some of my cases, the lockdown has actually been helpful because they were dealing with a burnout. For them this situation is a good solution.’

The ombudsman is keeping track of people who had contacted him before the lockdown. ‘I’ve sent everybody an email asking about the progress they made. Almost everybody reacted - not everybody and that's also quite normal - and in some of the cases I had to act again. In one of them I'm even busier than ever. To be honest, I'm a little bit surprised people still know how to find me, even in this time of lockdown. I was worried that I would have nothing to do.’