Melle van der Geest (24) stond vandaag voor de rechter. Hij heeft een zaak aangespannen tegen de gemeente om deze zover te krijgen dat zij hem alsnog een energietoeslag uitkeert. De rechtszaal zat vandaag vol met geïnteresseerde medestudenten.
People with a low income could claim a one-time energy allowance of 1300 euros last year. Van der Geest could not do this because he is a student, and they are excluded from the scheme. Students can only receive extra money from the municipality if they apply for individual special assistance (IBB), but there is a stricter income limit for IBB than for the energy allowance.
Van der Geest finds this situation unfair and therefore went to court. He explained to the judge the consequences he faced due to rising energy costs and not being eligible for compensation. “I have less money. Therefore, I have to save a lot, and my heating is now turned off,” said Van der Geest.
Jurist Daan Swildens is a co-founder of the company Legal Advice Wanted. The advisory firm is currently helping about 10,000 students across the country to receive energy allowances. In total, about thirty lawsuits are scheduled in various municipalities in the coming period. Swildens assisted Van der Geest in the case against the municipality of Amsterdam.
According to Geerten Kruis, policy advisor for the municipality, it is sufficient that students can rely on the IBB. In this system, the municipality assesses the actual energy costs and actual income of the applicant. The judge wonders if this will not create a lot of extra work for the municipality. The municipality has no answer to this. The municipality also states that it did not receive enough money from the central government to compensate the students.
Therefore, according to the municipality, the scheme Van der Geest is appealing to applies only to the category of vulnerable Amsterdam residents for whom the situation is hopeless, something that, according to him, is not the case for students. This is because students can rely on their parents or borrow money. Swildens points out that Van der Geest already borrows the maximum from the Dutch Student Finance Authority (DUO). “Melle’s father has passed away, and it is not obvious that he can receive an allowance from his mother,” he adds.
The judge emphasizes that although this case is about Van der Geest, the verdict is important for a larger group of students, around 41,000. The verdict in this case will be announced no later than March 14, 2023.