Students in Amsterdam are excluded from energy allowances, despite the court in Gelderland ruling that it is not allowed. A group of Amsterdam jurists has, therefore, launched a campaign. According to them, students are entitled to compensation and indeed need it. "We are ready to go to court if necessary."
October 4, 2022 – AT5, NH-Nieuws
Despite a court ruling in Gelderland stating otherwise, students in Amsterdam are excluded from energy allowances. A group of Amsterdam jurists has initiated a campaign, asserting that students are entitled to compensation and genuinely need it. “We are ready to go to court if necessary.”
Due to the rising energy costs, Esmée now pays 815 euros for her student room, compared to the previous 670 euros. “Two housemates have returned to their parents because they could no longer afford it,” says the student. Teun also expresses serious concerns about his fellow students. “I hear in my surroundings that people are going into the negatives. You cannot study full time, lead a social life, and earn enough on the side to cover all these expenses.”
Robin Bosch, Daan Swildens, and Jaap Kotteman are lawyers. Together, they founded the start-up Legal Advice Wanted (L.A.W.), which provides legal advice to people who wouldn’t readily consult a lawyer. Now, it’s the students’ turn. “The argument for excluding students doesn’t hold water,” says Swildens.
Because how does it work? People with low incomes are eligible for a one-time energy allowance of 1300 euros. This can be requested from the municipality. However, the minister’s legislative proposal advised excluding, among others, students from this compensation. According to the minister, students live ‘diverse’ lives (in various housing forms). Some pay an inclusive rent, while others, for example, still live with their parents. The ministry therefore argued that students could qualify for compensation through another assistance scheme but not for energy allowances.
“That students live diverse lives is a non-argument,” says Swildens, “because non-students can also live diverse lives.” And so, a judge in Gelderland ruled: students are wrongfully excluded, and municipalities should grant students the energy allowance.
However, the city of Amsterdam adheres to the national advice, which has not changed since the court ruling. Swildens finds this regrettable. “Amsterdam is a large student city. You see that cities like Delft and Utrecht are already changing, but Amsterdam is making it even impossible for students to submit an application online.”
L.A.W. aims to exert pressure on the ministry to change the policy with this campaign. “That’s why we’ve set up a petition register with students on whose behalf we may proceed,” says Bosch. More than ten thousand students have already signed up. “Students who register receive a step-by-step plan to apply for the allowance and a ready-made objection letter once the application is rejected.”
The municipality states that it is very sorry that many people are facing problems due to the energy bill but emphasizes that there is no budget to compensate students through the allowance. According to the municipality, funding should come from the central government. The ministry, in turn, states that it still supports the exclusion but also mentions that more money will be made available for people in financial need. They can appeal to another special assistance scheme for this.
The lawyers still find it unjust and insist that students should also be eligible for energy allowances. Another special assistance scheme means that different requirements apply to qualify.
Esmée and Teun have also joined the campaign of Amsterdam jurists. “I also hope that students will be involved in these higher-level decisions,” says Teun. “Now you often see that it is said, ‘it’s not possible,’ and that’s the end of the story. While there are many more possibilities.” Bosch and Swildens state that they hope the policy will change soon, “but otherwise, we are ready to appeal.”