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Patience remains a requirement for those who call DUO


Although there have been signs of problems at DUO (Education Executive Agency), there is no money to do anything about it. Minister Van Engelshoven hopes that the service to students will not get any worse. “That is quite a challenge in and of itself.”

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Students are sometimes put on hold on the phone for half an hour or even an hour before someone of DUO picks up the telephone themselves. That is far too long, says the National Ombudsman, Reinier van Zutphen.

This autumn, he sent a letter to the minister. And when he did not think her answer was good enough, he sent a second letter. "In my opinion, the financial limitations of your department are no reason not to offer help to (former) students with urgent problems", he wrote.

It threatens to become a thorn in the side for the minister, because almost all political parties are involving themselves: why is the service to students not in order? The government parties are also disappointed.

"I am sorry that students have to wait so long before they are helped", the minister writes to the House of Representatives. But she does not offer more than regret. She does not think the service is good enough, but according to her it is "quite a challenge" not to let it get worse.

Because DUO is having money problems. The executive agency has had a setback on their budget, Van Engelshoven said last month. There are problems with the management and maintenance of ICT at DUO. This is partly due to the switch to the new system for student grant (which, incidentally, was twice as expensive as expected).

According to spokesman Tea Jonkman, the new system is working well, “but the systems around it are older and they have to be connected to it. Subsequently, there are always things you encounter that you had not anticipated.”

Moreover, DUO is in a sense a victim of its own success. In the new system, students immediately see their changes and often still want to call to make sure. "We get a lot of confirmation calls," says Jonkman. “Then they’ll say: I have changed this, do you see that too? Yes, we tell them. In any case, some people prefer calling instead of reading something, even if the information is very clear. "

She hopes that there will be fewer of such phone calls in the future if students are used to the new system. “Of course, we do not want waiting times at all. We would prefer to call people ourselves to prevent all kinds of problems. We would like to receive extra money for that. “

But that is not happening any time soon, as the minister also informs the ombudsman. She did not want to suggest that she considers the waiting times acceptable, she writes in her reply to the second letter. But she had to make choices. "I have had to make an integral assessment with the available financial means between what is desirable and what is feasible."

Van Engelshoven now wants to assess how big the problems are. In the spring she wants to know more about it and then she will come back to the matter, she promises both the House of Representatives and the Ombudsman.




































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