Close to 145 island residents took to Ombudsman in 2017

The Nation­al Ombudsman received 142 requests and/or complaints from residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in 2017.

National Ombudsman Rei­nier van Zutphen and Chil­dren’s Ombudsman Mar­grite Kalverboer presented the 2017 annual report to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday. The combined 63-page report of the Om­budsman and Children’s Ombudsman included a spe­cific chapter about the Carib­bean Netherlands.

In the report, the Ombuds­man and Children’s Ombuds­man provided an overview of the work that was carried out on or on behalf of the three islands. The Ombuds­man is the first-line handler of complaints for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. This means that residents do not have to go first to their own government when they have a complaint, but they can take their grievances directly to the Ombudsman.

“That is why it is so important that the National Ombudsman makes an additional effort to inform the citizens of his role, especially when considering the large geographic distance between the Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands. Many people now know how to find their way to the National Ombudsman with complaints about both the Dutch Government services and the local government,” it is stated in the report.

A specialised team of staff members handles the com­plaints from the islands. This team visits the islands twice per year, in March and No­vember. The team members have contact with both resi­dents and with the govern­ment organisations.

The government is provided with information, sometimes in the format of a workshop, about the relationship be­tween residents and govern­ment. Consultation hours are held where residents can ask questions and file a com­plaint.

The Ombudsman makes use of the media and social media to announce its con­sultation hours. People can also get in touch outside these consultation hours. Residents are making a lot of use of the Ombudsman’s WhatsApp service.

The majority of the com­plaints can be solved through intervention of the Ombuds­man. The annual report spe­cifically mentioned the move of the Central Government Service Caribbean Nether­lands RCN to add informa­tion about complaint and ap­peal bodies in letters that are sent to residents.

Another example is health insurance office ZVK and the decision regarding the compensation of the daily allowance after a medical re­ferral abroad. ZVK also took measures to prevent issues with payment of the daily al­lowance for future medical referrals.

The Ombudsman wrote a report letter to the St. Eusta­tius Government in January 2017 regarding four com­plaints. The Ombudsman found all four complaints grounded because the local government had not re­sponded and the handling took too long.

“This causes a needless further escalation. The Om­budsman is concerned about the manner in which the St. Eustatius Government com­municates with its citizens. That is why we requested the government to give ad­ditional attention to this matter,” it was stated in the annual report. St. Eustatius has enhanced the complaints procedure.

The Children’s Ombuds­man stated in the joint an­nual report that it wants to extend its role as an entity where residents, especially children, can file a com­plaint. “We will invest in making children and adults more aware of what we do. We will do so in close col­laboration with the National Ombudsman.”

The Children’s Ombuds­man is the entity to which residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba can turn with concerns and com­plaints. The Children’s Om­budsman focuses on the gen­eral welfare of children and children’s rights.

Children’s Ombudsman Kalverboer and her team visited Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba for the first time in November 2016. They used this visit to assess the status of children’s rights. Almost 200 children on the islands were interviewed, while another 264 children com­pleted the questionnaire. Meetings also took place with many professionals. The findings were presented in a 2017 report “If you ask us. The Children’s Ombudsman on children rights tour in the Caribbean Netherlands.”

The Daily Herald.

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