Netherlands childcare benefits fraud assessments automation

The Netherlands' childcare benefits scandal (kinderopvangtoeslagaffaire, or toeslagenaffaire) was a controversial scheme that automated the assessment and payment of childcare benefits by creating risk profiles of citizens and predicting the likelihood of their committing fraud.

System 🤖

System databank 🔢

Operator: Tax and Customs Administration; Ministry of Social Affairs & Employment
Developer: Tax and Customs Administration; Ministry of Social Affairs & Employment
Country: Netherlands
Sector: Govt - tax; Govt - welfare
Purpose: Detect compliance errors; Detect fraud; Assess & classify risk
Technology: Risk assessment/classification algorithm
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - race, nationality; Privacy
Transparency: Governance; Complaints/appeals; Black box

Risks and harms 🛑

Termed (pdf) an 'unheard-of injustice' by a parliamentary inquiry, the system led to false accusations of fraud by the country's Tax and Customs Administration levelled at approximately 26,000 families, resulting in deep mental stress for many of those involved, financial ruination, and suicide, with over a thousand children having to be taken into foster care.

Transparency 🙈

Welfare seekers were not informed about the system, and had little scope to complain or appeal decisions. 

External parties such as researchers, journalists or investigators were not permitted to inspect it.

Legal, regulatory 👩🏼‍⚖️

Research, advocacy 🧮

Page info
Type: System
Published: January 2021
Last updated: September 2023