Around 100 participants gathered at the Grote Markt on 6 October, in order to call for the national government to make energy subsidies available for all students. OOGTV reports that representatives of nine political parties and 18 youth and student organisations, along with several dozen students, attended the demonstration.
Dagblad van het Noorden spoke with students at the protest about the tough financial choices they are faced with in order to make ends meet, such as cutting back on groceries, keeping the heating off until the high temperature has been below 13 degrees for a consecutive week, and figuring out how to pay energy bills that jumped 150 euros from one month to the next.
A secondary goal of the protest was to spark similar demonstrations in other university cities nationwide. The national student advocacy group, LSVb (Landelijke Studentenverband, National Student Union), is actively encouraging students to contest the decision if they are refused a subsidy due to being a student.
Why aren’t students eligible?
While people over the age of 21 who meet the income and residential requirements can apply for the much-needed subsidy, people between the ages of 18 and 20 are not explicitly included in the stop gap measure.
Students living in shared student housing are not automatically eligible for energy subsidies under the current scheme. Independent or self-contained accommodations must have their own postal address, kitchen, toilet and shower, and front door that they can lock.
Young people are also limited in how much money they can earn up to the age of 21, with different levels of minimum wage based on how old you are, and students can only work so many hours before it conflicts with their studies (and, in the case of foreign students, their eligibility for financial aid).
Not waiting around
During the national budget presentation in September, a last-minute effort to ease consumer pain when facing as much as a tripling of their energy utility expenses was publicly announced. The cabinet has stated their plan to set aside 35 million euros for students with acute financial issues due to rising energy expenses.
In several Dutch cities, local politicians have decided not to wait around for national approval: the Tilburg municipal council, in an effort led by alderperson Esmah Lahlah, has deemed students who are living in self-contained accommodations eligible for the one-time €1,300 subsidy. A similar arrangement is in effect in Rotterdam: people from the ages of 18 to 20 who receive supplemental subsidies because they are living independently are eligible for the energy subsidy as well.
A student in Nijmegen filed a lawsuit against the municipality for excluding students by default. The local courts in Gelderland ruled in her favour, but the national government maintains that students as a class or group should not automatically be included, due to the potentially varying financial and living circumstances they may have.