City of UtrechtWhat works: studying the effects of alternative rules in social assistance

The municipality of Utrecht helps people receiving social assistance find a job and participate in society. We want to do this in the best way possible. The Dutch Participation Act (Participatiewet) prescribes strict provisions for people who receive social assistance. These provisions are quite complicated and include many obligations and entitlement conditions. Whether this is the best way to help people remains to be seen. What are alternative approaches, and are there approaches that are simpler or better? This is what we would like to know.

In collaboration with Utrecht University and a group of social assistance claimants we are conducting  a study called ‘What Works’ (in Dutch: Weten wat werkt). We want to know what the effects will be if we impose fewer rules on social assistance claimants and allow them more room for their own initiative to find a job.

Aim of the study

We want to find out if such an approach helps people to actively participate in society and/or find a job more quickly. We will also study the effects on health and well-being, on debts, and on whether people are satisfied with their situation.

Treatment groups

There will be several treatment groups in the study. We also include a control group to compare the results of our interventions with the current situation. This group will receive social assistance with the current rules in place. After two years, the results of all these groups will be compared.

Permission requested

Utrecht has officially requested permission from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment to start the experiment. At the moment, the request is being assessed by the Ministry. Once permission has been granted we will start preparations and invite potential participants.