Utrecht University and City of Utrecht start experiment to study alternative forms of social assistance

Utrecht University and the City of Utrecht have teamed up for the experiment Weten wat werkt, a study into the effects of less conditional social assistance (bijstand). Under the current system, the Dutch Participation Act (Participatiewet) prescribes strict duties and entitlement conditions for people who receive social assistance. Whether obligations work best to reintegrate people and encourage them to participate in society remains to be seen. 

During the experiment groups of social assistance claimants in Utrecht will receive benefit payments under varied conditions for a period of two years. Some of the participants will be exempted from reintegration obligations. Others will be offered extra help and support or additional financial incentives. Outcomes of interest are re-integration into the labour market and societal participation, as well as participants’ well-being, satisfaction and financial situation. Also the cost of the different schemes will be assessed.

The research will be conducted by a group of researchers from Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.), prof. dr. Stephanie Rosenkranz, dr. Loek Groot, dr. Mark Sanders and Timo Verlaat (MSc).


The experiment was planned to start on May 1st, 2017. However, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment has indicated that the experiment has to be conducted in a different way. At the moment, the City of Utrecht and the Ministry are discussing how to conduct the study. This means that the experiment cannot start on May 1st.