Free legal assistance
Some parents find it difficult to contact us themselves. Others would like independent legal assistance. Parents who want this are now entitled to a free lawyer. This lawyer can help them during the recovery process. Parents can apply for this free legal aid at the Legal Aid Board (Raad voor Rechtsbijstand).
Who is the free legal assistance for?
All parents that have been affected by the childcare benefit affair are entitled to free legal assistance. This is known as legal aid.
It is subject to 2 conditions:
- You are involved in proceedings with us concerning the restoration of childcare benefit.
- You do not have your own legal assistance insurance that covers the full costs of legal assistance during the restoration process.
How does it work?
If you would like to make use of the free legal aid, please register with the Legal Aid Board. We cannot do this for you; you have to do it yourself.
Step 1. Apply to the Legal Aid Board for legal aid
You apply to the Legal Aid Board for free legal aid. If you wish, your personal case officer or the Service team can help you fill in the form. Please accompany your application by proof of your registration with us, for example a copy of the 'ontvangstbevestiging melding herbeoordeling bij Toeslagen'. Or the letter from the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration stating that you have been identified as a victim or affected parent.
On the website of the Legal Aid Board you will find more information and you can fill in the application form.
Step 2. Choose a lawyer
The Legal Aid Board will suggest a number of lawyers on the basis of your information. You make your own choice. The Legal Aid Board will connect you to the lawyer of your choice. Even if you already have a lawyer, you can make use of the free legal aid scheme. In this case, please enter the name of your lawyer on the form.
What costs are reimbursed?
The Legal Aid Board reimburses the expenses made by your lawyer in assisting you in your dealings with us. The lawyers are paid for a certain number of hours, which is determined in advance. The lawyer is not allowed to charge you for the costs reimbursed under the scheme.
They pay the lawyer directly.
What costs are not reimbursed?
The free legal aid scheme only applies to problems concerning the childcare benefit.
The scheme does not apply to:
- the free legal aid scheme only applies to the childcare benefit restoration schemes.
- other proceedings with the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration or Benefits.
- follow-up proceedings with municipalities or other institutions.
The lawyer that the Legal Aid Board assigns to you can help you with other cases, but this will not be free of charge. In some cases, however, a grant may be available.
Is the legal assistance completely free?
Yes. You do not have to pay a contribution. Your income or assets are not taken into consideration either.
I have already engaged a lawyer and the work has already been concluded. Am I entitled to free legal aid for this retroactively?
No, the scheme only applies to cases that are ongoing or have yet to commence at the time the scheme is launched. The official start date is 2 March 2021.
Am I also entitled to free legal aid for the Catshuis Childcare Benefit scheme (€30.000)?
No, the arrangement does not apply to the Catshuis scheme. No contact with you is needed for the short assessment in which we determine if you are eligible for €30,000.
Legal aid is only available for the "full assessment" of your situation. During a full assessment we take a detailed look at your situation.
I don't live in the Netherlands any more. Am I entitled to this scheme?
Yes, you are. It doesn't matter where you live now. Or what nationality you have. It is important to know that you will be assigned a lawyer in the Netherlands, not in the country where you live now.
The only exception to this rule is made for parents who live in the Caribean Netherlands. If you live in the Caribean Netherlands and you had already appointed your own lawyer before 15 March 2021, you can keep this lawyer. Discuss using this arrangement with your lawyer. If your lawyer agrees, he or she must return to you the fees you have already paid. State the name of your lawyer in the application form.
What can a lawyer do for me?
A lawyer can guide and advise you throughout the process.
- Help with preparing for and participating in parent meetings.
- Assistance with gathering and reviewing documents needed for your assessment.
- Explaining your provisional decision and, if you wish, submitting an opinion on it on your behalf.
- Objecting to the outcome of your assessment.
- Assisting you during the objection phase. This could entail participating in hearings of the Advisory Committee Regarding Objections.
- Petitioning the Committee on Actual Damages on your behalf and participating in hearings of the committee.
- Appealing against the decision of the Allowance Restoration Organisation following the advice of the Committee on Actual Damages.
Is legal assistance compulsory?
No, it is not compulsory to seek legal assistance. If you have been affected you are eligible for compensation, even without legal assistance. All parents who want a 'full assessment' are assisted by a personal case officer. This is your regular contact person at the Allowance Restoration Organisation who will guide you and answer your questions as well as possible.
How are the fees of the free lawyers determined?
The Legal Aid Board has a lot of experience with legal-aid lawyers. For the free legal aid to affected parents, the fees that the Board normally pays to legal-aid lawyers have been considered. This applies to the amount of work and also to the reimbursement amount. The Board uses a points system for this purpose. One hour of work equals one point. The fee per point is €124.73. The scheme includes a total of 16 points now. That is equivalent to 16 hours of work. But this number may increase if more time is needed.
When drafting the scheme, it was assessed, in consultation with the Ministry of Justice and Security and the Legal Aid Board, how many points are reasonable for the work performed by a lawyer. A comparison was made with other processes in which subsidised legal aid is granted. It has been agreed with the Ministry and the Board that we will keep monitoring this scheme. And that we adjust it if it turns out to be inadequate.
I already have a lawyer. Will the costs be reimbursed retroactively?
If you already have a lawyer, the Legal Aid Board can 'assign' this lawyer. This allows him or her to continue to represent you.
This lawyer has to reimburse you for the fees already paid. Discuss this arrangement with your lawyer. Submit the form mentioned in step 1 in which you state the name of the lawyer.
Your case must still be pending with us to be retroactively eligible for a lawyer.
I have been contacted by a lawyer. How do I know if this lawyer is also covered by the free legal assistance scheme?
It has come to our notice that some parents have been approached by companies or individuals offering legal assistance. There is nothing wrong with offering assistance. However, we also understand that not all of these providers are transparent regarding who they are, what exactly they can do for you and at what it costs. Ask the Legal Aid Board whether this lawyer is part of the scheme.
Our advice: carefully look into who you are dealing with before you engage any person or company andd before you share any personal information! For example, your date of birth, bank account number or citizen service number (BSN).
The Allowance Restoration Organisation does not pass on personal data to other organisations, except to municipalities and a few implementing organisations - and even then only under strict conditions. If someone claims they received your information from the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration, that is not true.
Organisations may have found your information on social media, such as Facebook and X. Therefore, always be careful about what you post about your situation on social media.
Can this lawyer also help me with other problems?
The Legal Aid Board will put you in touch with a lawyer who can help you with your case against the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration and with related problems. The lawyer they introduce to you is specialised in these matters. The lawyer's legal assistance in the case against the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration is free.
In case you want this same lawyer to help you in cases against other parties, the lawyer will apply separately to the Legal Aid Board for an assignment on your behalf. This is not free. In this case, you pay a personal contribution. Once the case is closed, the result is assessed. This may also result in extra expenses for you. Read more about the result assessment on the website of the Legal Aid Board (in Dutch).
I want to appoint a lawyer for problems caused by the benefits affair. Can I do that through the Legal Aid Board?
Yes. If you qualify for subsidised legal aid on the basis of your income and capital, you can apply to the Legal Aid Board for a 'regular' (standard) assigned lawyer. Your lawyer can make this application for you. You do however have to pay a contribution for this assigned lawyer.
My objection to the recovery assessment was overruled. I want to appeal this ruling. Does the free legal aid apply to that too?
No. The grant scheme applies until the end of the objection phase:
- against the restore decision
- and/or against the decision following your application for compensation for actual damages.
I want to hire a lawyer for problems with other benefits. Is it possible to do this through the Legal Aid Board?
Yes. If, on the basis of your income and capital, you are eligible for subsidised legal aid, you can apply for ‘regular’ (standard) legal aid from the Legal Aid Board. Your lawyer can make this application for you. However, you do pay a contribution for this legal aid, depending on the income and assets test. After the case is closed, an outcome assessment will be performed. You can read more about this on the income/assets page on the Legal Aid Board’s website and on the outcome assessment page.
Can I also get free legal aid for the €30,000?
Yes. With a first assessment, we determine whether someone is eligible for the €30,000. We perform this test automatically. Therefore, you or your lawyer do not need to do anything.
After your application, did we inform you that you will not receive €30,000?
Then there are two options:
- We have informed you that we are not going to perform an integrated assessment of your situation. This means that we will not look at your situation in detail, because it is already clear from the first assessment that you are not a victim according to the restoration rules. You can then call the Service Team (0800 - 2 35 82 58) and ask us to carry out the first assessment again. If we then inform you again that you will not receive €30,000, you can also object to this decision. For calling the Service Team or for lodging an objection, you can make use of free legal aid.
- We have informed you that we are currently unsure whether you are a victim and that we will perform an integrated assessment of your situation. This means that we will look at your situation in detail to determine whether you are a victim according to the restoration rules. You can then call the Service Team (0800 - 2 35 82 58) and ask us to carry out the first assessment again. If we then inform you again that you will not receive €30,000, you can also object to this decision. You can also wait for the integrated assessment. For calling the Service Team, lodging an objection or during the integrated assessment, you can make use of free legal aid.
Do I have to pay a personal contribution?
You do not have to pay a personal contribution. If you already have a legal-aid lawyer and a personal contribution was imposed on you, your legal aid will be converted into legal aid without a personal contribution. Your lawyer can request this from the Legal Aid Board on your behalf. If you have already paid your lawyer the personal contribution, you can reclaim it. The lawyer is not allowed to charge you for the costs reimbursed under the scheme.