Surge in Flemings asking for a social services top-up

Figures from the Flemish Association of Cities and Towns show a 30% jump in the number of Flemings applying for a top up to their wages or benefit from social services.  The rise was recorded over the past five years.

In 2017 97,000 Flemings applied for extra support from social services compared to only 75,000 people in 2012.  This extra support largely has to be funded by local social services themselves and comes in addition to any wages or benefits.

The association’s Nathalie Debast: "Very often we're talking about people unable to meet basic costs like rent or fuel costs.  Sometimes one-off payments are made for the purchase of glasses or swimming gear for the kids."

Some applications are refused and the approach may differ from one municipality to another.  The criterion for awarding additional support is that people have to be able to enjoy a humane life, but some social services are more prosperous than others.  Medical treatment forms a frequent bone of contention.

Many applicants are on minimum subsistence benefit or "leefloon" or some other benefit.  Some people are in work.  The association is calling for minimum wages and benefits to be increased.  It wants combatting poverty to be made a priority at all government levels and for housing to be made affordable.