City of Utrecht What works: studying the effects of fewer rules in social assistance

The current rules in social assistance under the Participation Act (Participatiewet) are complex and strict. The City of Utrecht wants to know whether this can be done differently. Therefore, the municipality studies a better approach to welfare benefits, together with Utrecht University and 900 welfare recipients. The study is called ‘What works’ (in Dutch: Weten wat werkt) and runs from June 2018 to January 2020. We will share the results in April 2020.

Aim of the study

Researchers from Utrecht University will investigate the different effects that a different approach can have on welfare recipients. They look at whether people find work more quickly and/or participate in society more actively (e.g. by doing volunteer work). They also study the effect on participants’ health, on their financial situation, and whether welfare recipients are more or less satisfied with their own situation.

Four research groups

There are four research groups, each with a different approach. After one and a half years the results of all groups will be compared to find out which approach works best.

  1. In the first group called Getting in action by yourself (Zelf in actie), participants decide for themselves how they look for paid work, volunteer work or other activities. They are not obliged to apply for a certain number of jobs per week or participate in reintegration activities that the municipality offers.
  2. Participants in the second group called Getting in action with extra help (Met extra hulp in actie), receive extra help and guidance from the municipality.
  3. Work pays off (Werken loont). Beneficiaries who work alongside their benefits may, in this group, keep more of the money they earn. They can keep 50% of their earnings up to a maximum of €202 per month for the duration of the research.
  4. The rules in this group do not change, so that the results in the other groups can be compared to the current situation. This is why it is called Measuring what works (Meten wat werkt). As there is no change for this group, participants will receive a gift voucher of €40 to thank them at the end of the research.