Saturday 18 March 2023

In Telling: Not knowing there is help for you

Not knowing your dues

Understanding how to get help can be a handicap for people who have generally been self-reliant and independent. Having been schooled on self-sufficiency through grit, determination, and hard work, one can so easily be lost when the tried and tested modes of living and existing fail.

When some thirteen years ago I fell so seriously ill with cancer and the treatment meant it was impossible for me to consider returning to work as I underwent chemotherapy. Living in the Netherlands with all the accoutrements of an EU citizen and fully paying my taxes, I was unaware of what support I might get from the state. In fact, I did not think I qualified.

There was one month when I literally had nothing, but for the generosity of friends, I might just have one day expired on the floor of my living room and then would have been the end of all my troubles. However, it was one of the unique elements of the Dutch health system that they were not just concerned about my physical health but also my mental health and how I was getting on with life.

Support beyond the medicine

On one of my hospital visits, the nurse asked if I was getting any income support and when I responded in the negative, she was quite taken aback. She insisted that having worked in the Netherlands for almost a decade, I should have contributed enough to the system for such situations as my inability to work because of ill health.

She did not leave it at that, she marched me to the social security support office in the hospital and asked that they take on my case. Immediately, I was given forms to fill and I typed out a cover letter explaining my circumstances. The office fast-tracked the application to the responsible department and within the week, much-needed financial support arrived at the highest accessible support payout, backdated 6 months, which was the maximum that could be allowed.

Getting the help needed

If I had known any better, that application should have gone in at least 8 months before. Yet, with that lesson learnt, it is not that practised. The default inclination is always to be actively and fruitfully engaged in employment than depending on welfare payments.

It delays the necessary work of seeking support because you have the mind that things are on the turn and the reality is as days turn to weeks and weeks to months, that passage of time means what could have been done, is not done.

By the time you realise or understand that there is more than adequate support available, your situation is almost hopelessly dire. It is strange, yet troubling, the many who need help sometimes just do not know what help is available and how to access it.

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