Organised Impotence

The role of central government in youth protection

The Dutch government transferred responsibility for youth protection to municipalities in 2015. Its aim was to reduce the overall cost of youth care, shorten waiting times and cut red tape for care providers. The policy has not succeeded. Children and vulnerable families do not receive the help they need when they need it. For some considerable time, the politicians concerned (the Minister for Legal Protection and the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport) have inadequately borne their statutory responsibilities for youth protection. The Netherlands Court of Audit comes to this conclusion in its report ‘Organised Impotence’

The 2015 Youth Act requires municipalities to organise youth protection locally. The minister and state secretary thought the municipalities’ proximity to children and families would enable them to tailor the care provided. In practice, however, care provision is badly organised and impracticable for both municipalities and care providers. In 2019, the Justice and Security Inspectorate and the Health and Youth Care Inspectorate concluded that the situation was ‘not acceptable’. At the moment, 3 years later, there are still no signs (or expectations) of a structural improvement in the system. Children are suffering.

Why did we carry out this audit?

Many studies have been made of the problems with youth protection. Less thought has been given to the government’s role in the system. The Court of Audit investigated whether the government had done what it could do to resolve the structural problems. And if so, whether what it had done had helped.

What were our audit questions?

Are the Ministers of Justice and Security, Health, Welfare and Sport, and the Interior and Kingdom Relations addressing the structural problems of youth protection effectively and ensuring that young people at risk receive the right help at the right moment? Have the ministers done what can be expected of them given their statutory tasks, powers and responsibilities?

Do you have any feedback about this audit or investigation?

We welcome all feedback about our audits and investigations. What do you think about the report? Do you have any questions about our work or need further information? Mail us at We take all emails into account and treat them in confidence.