News from Amsterdam

To the front page

11/1 Jurists want to stay in Oudemanhuispoort

8/2 Mayor’s portrait

8/2 Websites for social cohesion

7/2 Spreading tourism proceeds with difficulty

7/2 GroenLinks on districts: Be a man

6/2 Zuideramstel opens new office on Sabbath

5/2 The truth about integration

4/2 Wilders has little support on Amsterdam

3/2 Elite involved in neighbourhood

2/2 Johnnie Walker avoids taxes in Amsterdam

1/2 Rotterdam to tinker with district councils as well

31/1 Wooden rowing boats to disappear from Amstel

31/1 ZeeburgTV launched

27/1 Privacy activists to mess up loyalty card system

27/1 A few were still coughing, but that was an act

27/1 Chrisis in de Baarsjes

26/1 Youth have positive view of districts

24/1 Action groups call for Carmel and Jaffa boycott

24/1 PvdA members dismiss plan for districts

23/1 KLM takes on crisis with new uniform

23/1 District office not squatted

21/1 Merge districts

20/1 Closing squat bar Vrankrijk not necessary

20/1 Cleaners welcome new Schiphol director

18/1 Palestine at the Jewish Historical Museum

18/1 What is the right size for a district?

17/1 PvdA Oost against fewer districts

16/1 Committee: 7 districts by 2010

15/1 Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15/1 Bait bike leads to arrest

14/1 Youth for Christ to republish vacancies

13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

13/1 New Youth for Christ contoversy

11/1 Social cohesion initiative raises eyebrows

10/1 Fewer districts in 2010

10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

9/1 Supermarket coupon fraud thwarted

9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

8/1 Use term Apartheid in every discussion

8/1 No city kiosk in Amsterdam yet

7/1 Snow

7/1 Fatima Elatik to run Zeeburg

7/1 Municipal managers to return to shop floor

4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

1/1 Thousands to protest against attacks on Gaza

1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


2008 Archive

2007 Archive

2006 Archive

2005 Archive





‘Anybody knows jobseeker programmes do not work’

20 April 2007 - Until recently, Anush Avetisyan advised the welfare agency. She does not really believe in the jobseeker programmes by which the municipality tries to help people find work. People are better off doing volunteer work that suits them.

Until 1 April, Avetisyan was the chairwoman of the client advisory committee (cliëntenraad) of the welfare agency (DWI). Now she coaches volunteers in Geuzenveld-Slotermeer, who for example want to organise bicycle courses. Many women who do volunteer work end up finding a paid job.

How does one end up on a client advisory committee?

“As a result of external circumstances I had become unemployed. There was an advertisement in the DWI’s client magazine. And I am someone who has a lot of energy (laughs). So I thought OK, I am going to do some work for my social assistance benefit. I was also writing for Mug Magazine at the time, I was doing all kinds of things to keep myself busy and learn the language”.

Did you have a specific idea of what you wanted to do on the client advisory committee?

“Yes, I saw that many things were going wrong. Those arrangements, look, I had this feeling, you are making up arrangements upstairs, but you do not know your clients at all. That was my main motivation to join”.

What was wrong with these arrangements?

“Those letters you receive... You can write people they have to do something, but not in such a humiliating tone. Those civil servants are themselves often unaware of the impact of their letters, because it is legal vocabulary they use.

Another example is that it had never occurred to them to make bicycles eligible for a ‘knipkaart’ refund. It is one of the achievements of the client advisory committee that people can now get a refund for their bicycle under the knipkaart arrangement”.

The media paid a lot of attention to the home inspections by which the DWI tries to find out if people are not secretly living at the same address. Did you deal with these inspections?

“We advised against them, although you will always have to have some sort of verification. But they came up with an instrument that is so negative. If you enter people’s homes, you can also take a more positive approach: how can I help. I do not just come to count tooth brushes or to inspect your drawers, but: have you used the knipkaart?”

The municipality says it now uses the home inspections also to inform people about such arrangements.

“Yes, I think they adopted that suggestion. Many of our advices have been acted upon. I am rather proud of that, we achieved some very real results”.

Recently, the Accounting Office published a report criticising the ‘reintegration’ programmes designed to support jobseekers.

“Let’s be honest, anybody knows they are not working, we said so all the time. I was in a reintegration programme myself and they really did not help me. They were only busy keeping their administration in order so as to receive payment”.

What are these programmes like, do you follow courses?

“Oh no, most of the time it is just writing job applications and resumes. And more often than not, you are forced to accept a job that really does not suit you and you are not allowed to say ‘no’. Or your benefit may be cut...”

In practice, the client advisory committee turned out to be an effective means to help people find work, Avetisyan found out.

“Our secretary found a job very soon, then I found a job, it really works like a reintegration programme. It is a kind of empowerment. It provides you with many learning opportunities”.

You started working for the Geuzenveld-Slotermeer District. How did you end up here?

“I had organised a course in dealing with paperwork, that had to do with something the DWI had done wrong. They have a Forms Brigade. But what this Forms Brigade often does is to take over citizens’ responsibility by filling out these forms themselves, making citizens dependent on the government.

There was a ‘Make your idea reality’ campaign. Then I thought, OK, that could be my idea: a course to teach people to fill out these forms by themselves. That was very successful. And at some point I was asked to coordinate Wijkweb (Neighbourhood Web).

I think it was my DWI background that made me turn this into some sort of reintegration programme as well. Unconsciously, you know! (laughs) Since September, I have been coaching sixteen volunteers, and eight have already found a job”.

Wijkweb is a network of volunteer activities?

“It is very simple really. Someone enters and says, I really want to organise this. For example, Habiba wants to organise a bicycle course, that is a very good example. Then I say, OK, is there a demand? There have to be people who want to participate. You may really want to do this, but if no one shows up, there is no point. Then she investigates, finds a location, that is how I coach her. I coach her doing her thing.

There always has to be a degree of self-interest. We never force anyone to do anything, especially if it regards volunteer work. Many people think they have to do something on my account. They come here saying: what can I do for you? I say: nothing at all. What can you do for yourself?”

Illustration: poster of the We Amsterdammers campaign of the municipality. More on Wijkweb (in Dutch)


Want to receive News from Amsterdam? Click here


This is the old website. Please find new content here