Divosa is the Dutch national association of managers with municipal services in the fields of work, participation, income, social welfare and social inclusion. Divosa’s aim is to involve everybody in society, preferably by means of employment.

Divosa was founded in 1934 and has developed into the central organisation for social services departments in the Netherlands.


Divosa offers her members advice for a more efficient and effective application of local social services. She looks after the interests of the managers of these services and their customers by exchanging information and views on social security, the labourmarket en social welfare between the government and the working practice. Divosa also contributes to a more effective and efficient application of laws concerning social security, social welfare and labourmarket-issues for the people who depend on it.

  • Divosa signals through her members social needs at an early stage, and tries to find solutions in co-operation with other organisations and governmental bodies.
  • Divosa influences government-policy on social security, social welfare and labourmarket policies, based on feedback from the local members
  • Divosa offers help with the implementation of laws, and tends to standardise this implementation for all 538 local services
  • Divosa supports the management of local services on terrain's as policy-making, organisation, management and automation
  • Divosa stimulates sufficient training for all personnel of the organization

Social assistance policy in the Netherlands in short

Work Plaza

In the Netherlands, all employees must have compulsory insurance against illness, unemployment and disability. The national Institute for Employee Benefit Schemes (UWV) implements the regulations concerning these insurances. Social assistance, on the other hand, is the responsibility of municipal social services departments. Social assistance benefits are the last safety net for people who don’t manage to provide for themselves in any other way. As both the UWV and social services maintain contacts with jobseekers and employers, they have been cooperating more and more closely. There are now some hundred ‘work plazas’ all over the country, where they work together in the same building, sharing knowledge and expertise and jointly offering their services.

Work over income

With the introduction of the Work and Social Assistance Act (Wwb) in 2004, the Dutch municipalities have become responsible for their own social assistance policy, both financially and as regards its contents. The Government provides the finances, but the system is organised in such a way that it pays for municipalities to be alert to fraud and to get people back into work. As a result, eighty percent of the municipalities have adopted the work-first approach: anyone in good health who applies for social assistance benefit can start working in manufacturing or in the parks and public gardens within a week. This way work first is the first step towards a regular job. The new Act has proven a success, for five years down the line the number of social assistance benefit claimants has decreased by 25 percent.

Some examples of local social assistance

  • Work and training for young people: ADHD, depression, alcohol problems in the family and a lovely little baby: for young people benefits are never the only concern. If you want to help them, you need to organise care, send them to school, sort out their debts and cut bureaucracy out of youth work. That is why the Netherlands set up youth desks. These youth desks are a collaborative initiative of social services departments, schools, school attendance officers and other organizations that deal with young people. The participants share knowledge and take immediate action when necessary.
  • Financial support and low income support: People in the Netherlands who have to manage on an income on or around the minimum wage are eligible for financial support from the municipality. Poverty may be less acute and visible in the Netherlands, but that doesn’t make it less of a reality. Nine percent of the population has to manage on a low income, the majority of which is made up of single parent families, immigrants and the elderly. But also people who are in a job. Each municipality has its own scheme,  but it usually includes cheap care insurances, discounts on sports activities, or a free computer for children of school age. In addition, people can get an allowance for things like a new washing machine, baby gear or exceptional medical costs.
  • A perfectly ordinary job: for people with a physical or mental disability, a normal job may be beyond their reach. The same applies to people who have psychological problems. Many years ago, sheltered workshops were formed to meet the needs of such people. These workshops provide simple work without pressure. But there are a number of people who after some time would like to reach a little further, or they are interested in doing totally different work from what the sheltered workshop has to offer. In the Netherlands, opportunities have been created to enable such people to work for a regular employer after all. Municipalities pay for any mentoring and aids required and, if necessary, pay wage compensation to the employer.
  • Learning the Dutch language and customs: since the seventies, the Netherlands have seen a sharp rise in the number of immigrants. Most of these come from Turkey and Morocco, others from the former Dutch colonies such as Indonesia, Surinam and the Dutch Antilles, but the number of migrants from war areas all over the world is on the increase as well. Migrants from non-western countries of origin are under an obligation to learn the Dutch language if they wish to settle in the Netherlands. In addition, they have to complete an integration course.
  • From benefit to business: to start your own business you need drive and guts, but at least the option is open to benefit claimants as well. Municipalities give budding entrepreneurs an allowance for three years, which they can use to set up their own business. Those who only need some business credit can get this from the municipality as well. Existing entrepreneurs who are going through a rough patch can also make a fresh start with a loan from the municipality.
  • Fighting fit for the job: according to social services departments in the Netherlands, an estimated two thirds of benefit claimants are unable to hold down a regular job. To them the way to work is a real steeplechase, with physical and psychological limitations being the biggest hurdles. Yet however difficult it may be to find a regular job, everyone can climb another step on the ‘reintegration ladder’. Sports activities for example enable benefit claimants to improve their fitness and confidence levels. Afterwards they feel better and have a more positive outlook on life. This can be the starting point for the next step, for example voluntary work.