New research shows that the joint Nationale-Nederlanden and Aegon Nederland poverty and debt program, From Debt to Opportunity, improved the situations of three quarters of the participants. But people with large debts need the type of professional assistance that local authorities can provide.
Over 18,000 household in the seven Dutch cities ― Amsterdam, Arnhem, The Hague, Groningen, Leeuwarden, Rotterdam, and Zwolle ― have participated in the program over the last five years. There have been a total of 85 informal poverty and debt projects and a wide variety of participants, including young people, entrepreneurs, women from non-Dutch backgrounds, refugees, and single parents.
Employees of NN and Aegon provided coaching and support. At Aegon, 450 Aegon employees from our offices in The Hague, Leeuwarden and Groningen volunteered their time and expertise.
Insurance group Nationale-Nederlanden launched the From Debt to Opportunity program (in Dutch, Van Schulden naar Kansens), in 2016. Aegon joined as the goals of reducing poverty caused by debt issues and promoting financial self-reliance fit our commitment to support the local communities in which we operate.
One question is always asked about such programs. Does it actually have a lasting and positive effect on participants and their finances? The evidence suggests that it does.
During the last five years, research has been conducted by the Poverty Interventions Research Group at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, into informal debt counseling in the Netherlands. Researchers Roeland van Geuns and Jodi Mak presented the results of the unique study to a conference From Debts to Opportunities: Knowing What Works on November 25, 2021.
Some 75% of From Debt to Opportunity participants indicated increased self-confidence and financial self-reliance. The research also showed that people with a relatively low debt – up to EUR 3,000 – are taking the biggest steps, particularly in the areas of self-confidence and self-reliance. And finally, the researchers make it clear that professional debt counseling in the Netherlands should be offered sooner.
The lessons learned during the program will be applied to the new version called Step Forward (Stap Vooruit) in 2022.