You have a child with an intellectual disability who can do little or nothing by himself and you want to log in to government agencies as a legal representative to arrange things. Take out health insurance. Make an appointment at the hospital. View the health record. File a declaration with the tax authorities. That is not possible. Because logging in with DigiD is personal. And yes, you can of course be authorized to log in, but how can an incapacitated, severely multiple disabled family member authorize you?
Legal representatives of people with intellectual disabilities are sentenced to this impossible position in the digital society. What to do? Pretend that the person you represent, usually a loved one, logs in himself? Or arrange everything on paper, resulting in long waiting times, travel times, extra costs and poorer service?
‘Give us DigiD’, write five interest groups in a recently published pamphlet. “Stop the digital exclusion of legal representatives,” they tell the cabinet. “For our loved ones, we have to go back in time. To counters, to photocopiers, to telephone conversations, to forms, to long waiting times.”
There are trustees, mentors and administrators who dutifully follow the complicated procedures to, for example, take out health insurance for their child. “I choose not to commit forgery,” says Albertine Ravensbergen, mother of the mentally disabled Diederik (18), and chairperson of the central client council of care provider ‘s Heeren Loo. She always tries to get an authorization on paper. That is not simple. “Almost no health insurer has arranged the authorization properly. As an authorized representative, you are therefore obliged to take out insurance on paper, which, however, is 6 euros per month more expensive than a digital policy. Ridiculous. Discrimination.”
Naughty shoes put on
Others choose a less time-consuming but de facto forbidden route. Stories from 75 people involved in a survey among the members of the five interest groups show that many relatives, unlike Albertine Ravensbergen, still use a DigiD for their relatives, but often prefer not to advertise it.
“I do it myself too,” says chairman Geert Benjamins of EMB Nederland, an organization that wants to improve the lives of people with severe multiple disabilities and their loved ones. He is the father of severely multi-disabled Lindsay (29) who “has the mind of a one-year-old”. Benjamins: “I pretended that she had a single moment of clarity and was able to request a DigiD in that moment. But actually it’s nonsense. We are forced to break the law. We have previously taken the plunge and asked the Ministry of Justice and the Tax Authorities, among others, whether they would impose sanctions there. Well, they don’t, we were told, because they find it easier than everyone working with paper again.”
Han Mennen, director of EMB Netherlands, outlines the problem: “The moment you use this DigiD, you are civilly disobedient. You are actually pretending to be someone else. That’s not allowed.”
And that creates a dilemma for parents, says Nicoline Versluys, bureau head at the Sien interest group for people with intellectual disabilities and their loved ones: “The 75 people who responded are the tip of the iceberg. Some parents do. Other parents find it exciting and don’t do it.”
The legal representatives have permission from the court to represent their loved one with an intellectual disability. They are expected to account for their actions annually, and every five years it is assessed whether and to what extent legal representation is necessary.
With a letter, you just have to hope that it doesn’t stay somewhere or has been thrown away
Nicole Versluys office head of interest association Sien
Benjamins: “The judicial authorities allow me to exercise all the rights of my daughter. But the other government does not allow me to exercise those rights. That cannot be explained. We get a lot of questions about that too. I get eighty-year-old members on the phone who are arranging the whole life of their forty-year-old son. You can expect the government to help them, right? The opposite happens: the government squares care.”
Official and political obstacle
In addition, you need DigiD for more and more things, Nicoline Versluys reports. “For a doctor’s visit. For health insurance. For a corona proof.” Anyone who arranges business by post also falls behind. “A letter is sent to a client in an institution and then it is hoped that it will not be left lying somewhere or has been thrown away, and eventually ends up with you as a legal representative.”
A solution would be obvious if, when granting access to DigiD, the responsible Ministry of the Interior would consult the register of the legal representatives as once appointed by the court. Han Mennen: „There is a bill that seems to meet our wishes. In practice it will prove impossible, because the registers cannot be linked. But that is not our problem.” Benjamins: “How difficult is it to allow me to apply for a DigiD if I mention the judge’s appointment of me as legal representative?”
Marion Thielemans, policy officer of the interest association KansPlus: “It is actually crazy that we have to ask for access to the DigiD of our loved ones. Because we have already been appointed by the court as legal representative. And if organizations or institutions want to check this again, they can also consult that register. It is a public register.”
Geert Benjamins: „I have wondered for years: how is it possible that after all these years we have not yet been able to achieve this for that group of approximately one hundred thousand people with an intellectual disability, mentally incapacitated, and their loved ones? When will we be able to break this official and political obstacle?”
Adjustment takes time
A spokesperson for responsible State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen (Digitalization, D66) acknowledges that legal representatives “at the moment” with their own login means cannot purchase services for their clients. “It is not yet possible to check whether someone is allowed to act as a legal representative on behalf of another person when logging in.” The problem is that the check must take place automatically, without human intervention.
The ministry, together with the Council for the Judiciary, is working on the possibility of consulting a register of representatives. “Unfortunately, because this is about a lot of information and we are dealing with the privacy of people, this takes time. This functionality is expected to be phased in at the beginning of next year.”