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The role of business is very important in money worries

Jennifer van der Leegte on behalf of the Partner Fund: 'Because on the shop floor you are often the first to spot problems with money worries, you can also be the first to offer a listening ear and targeted help to prevent worse.'


Companies that want to have a sustainable social impact on the region unite within the Partner Foundation Brainport Eindhoven. The idea behind this? Everyone should benefit from the region's business success. The Partner Foundation Brainport Eindhoven wants to sustainably improve the lives of residents of the region, especially those who need it just a little more. With the contribution of the business community, social initiatives are developed for this purpose, such as a programme around money worries. Jennifer van der Leegte, Executive Vice President VDL Groep and member of the board of the Partner Fund, tells more about it.

Why is VDL participating in the Financial fit programme?

"A week before Partnerfonds Brainport Eindhoven knocked on our door, I attended an absenteeism training course together with a number of managers within VDL Groep. One of the foremen asked: 'What can we as an employer do for employees struggling with money problems?' A fair question. He had noticed that some colleagues were suddenly skipping lunch. 

I was stimulated by that meeting and then delved further into the matter. The figures don't lie. In Eindhoven alone, more than 10,000 households have problematic debts and across the Netherlands, one in five households struggle to make ends meet. Having money worries can have a solid impact on daily life, both at home and in the workplace. As VDL, we like to be involved with our employees and find it important that everyone is healthy and well off.

I think the role of the business community is very important, because on the work floor you are often the first to spot problems and also the first to offer a listening ear and targeted help to prevent worse. When Partner Foundation Brainport Eindhoven came up with the financial fitness approach, I immediately knew: we are going to get involved. Through this programme we can really make a social impact." 

What has the Partnerfonds together with VDL done concretely since then? 

"The Partner Fund has joined the Dutch Schuldhulproute (NSR) and These are websites where our employees - regardless of where they live - can go to the right aid organisations. Through a geldfittest test, you get advice and, depending on the advice, you can take different aid routes. For example, you can download an app to keep track of your household book, or you can ask a debt relief buddy to help you get your finances back in order. In serious cases, you will be given a name and phone number of someone at the municipality who will help you. If people are less computer literate, they can also call 0800-8115 toll-free. 

In addition, we have communicated a lot within VDL about our 'Strong together with Money problems' programme via internal announcements at work, but also via our staff magazine that employees receive at home. At a number of our companies, managers have followed a training course to recognise signals and then know how to discuss them. An expert by experience shared do's and dont's. The training was well received. Our foremen were given tools to offer targeted help as well as a listening ear."

It's not easy to talk about this subject, is it?  

"Definitely not. It takes guts to make money problems discussable. Financial worries are common, but due to shame they are hardly ever talked about. Within VDL, we try to communicate about it more often to lower the threshold to talk about it. I think it is important that our employees with money worries know that they are not the only ones struggling with this and that they are not alone. As an employer, we can offer a listening ear and early targeted help. To prevent a lot of misery, it is important to raise the alarm in time. Together you are stronger." 

What are the reactions of colleagues within VDL so far? 

"I get emails containing messages such as: 'How nice that you are doing this as an employer'. And even partners of employees send mails as well as tips. For example, someone commented: 'Know that not everyone can read the information'. I immediately took this tip to the programme team of the Brainport Partner Foundation. As a result, we started communicating differently, more with videos and illustrations instead of just text." 

What steps does the Partner Fund still want to take?

"We can't do it alone, which is why, for example, we are entering into discussions with municipalities; I think that if there is more intensive cooperation, people can be helped better and faster. The Partner Foundation also wants to respond even more to life events. If you have a baby or get divorced, a lot changes, including financially. If we respond to these proactively, we can prevent problems. We also want to make a case for debts no longer to be resold. A debt of €1,500 is often still solvable, but within a year it can be a multiple of that amount, just because this debt is resold and then the amount is suddenly incalculable. Something as simple as a late paid phone bill, can sometimes have huge consequences because of this, this really needs to change." 

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