Dutch Student Union launches hotline for students’ energy costs

How high is your energy bill? The Dutch Student Union (LSVb) wants to put pressure on politicians and is launching a Meldpunt Energiearmoede (energy poverty hotline), where students can tell their story.

The prices of gas and electricity are rising sharply and students are feeling it: they are being hit with skyrocketing costs. But they are not eligible for the government energy allowance of 800 euros for low-income households.

‘The financial position of students is extremely vulnerable, so it’s unacceptable that they of all people are not covered by the compensation scheme’, says Ama Boahene of the Dutch Student Union.

‘We would like to hear about it!’

By getting students to tell their stories the Dutch Student Union wants to put pressure on politicians to do something for students. A special hotline for their financial problems has been set up for that purpose. Maybe, the Union suggests, some students will lose their rent allowance because their rent has suddenly become too high. ‘We would like to hear about it!’

Students did not play a significant role in political debates about the energy allowance and municipalities were advised not to give students the one-off allowance. If they get into problems, students can apply for special assistance, however.

The reason is that there is no time to look at who genuinely needs the allowance and who does not. The living situation of students varies so widely – from student apartments to attic rooms – that the government is not willing to give away 800 euros indiscriminately.

Not a valid excuse

The Dutch Student Union does not consider that a valid excuse, Boahene said previously: ‘That’s putting the cart before the horse: first we have to see who needs help, and then modify the scheme accordingly. We are worried about whether it will be properly arranged at the municipal level.’

But the scheme has not been changed. ‘Many students have already amassed debts in order to pay their living expenses, study expenses and rent’, says Boahene. And now there are high energy bills too.’

Young people under 21 years of age are in any event not covered by the scheme, because their parents have a maintenance obligation. So the parents have to pay any higher energy bills. The Dutch Student Union finds that strange too. What if those parents can’t afford it? ‘Financial support for students shouldn’t be a question of luck’, says Boahene. ‘There are plenty of parents who cannot even pay their own energy bills, let alone help their children.’

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