Social Farming in the Netherlands

The research of a more structured follow-up strategy

The Netherlands has been an agricultural country for a very long time. People from the Netherlands even emigrated to other countries to have the foreign farming experience but also start their own farms (e.g. Canada). The social welfare system - we are from nature a caring country with many facilities for people who need any form of help either due to circumstances or due to a handicap or due to sickness… Social farming has been known since about 1960. At first started for youngsters with a mental disease in need for a break from the system at home from people with a background in the mental health area or youth detention.

In these cases the social farms gave a normal, peaceful character with no big expectations from the fast dynamic municipality nowadays. No expectations, no big interaction, good structures and the urge to be needed gave constructive steps for the youngster to be able to step back in society or just to mean to something. Until some years ago the path to getting the indication to be able to take part on a social farm was in the hands of one general bureau in charge of assessing the case. In the last years the social system has changed from a big central organ (the government) who was in charge of arranging the system to the provinces/municipalities which are in charge of and the indication and the financial system behind it , so in general the diagnosis or target group is leading in which bureau handles your indication, mostly experienced as a difficult maze in which the path is not easy to follow if you’re not known to the system. Rules and regulations have become increasingly complicated.

The perceived opinion is still that social farming is a very good instrument to support young disabled people - who do not have a regular place in society. This can relate to physical or mental problems or motivational or all of the above. The profession around SF is agriculture - learn about the nature and cultures. In the end, we want to bring young people in connection with the labour market. SF would be used as a stepping-stone to activate them, get them back in (non-formal) education and into work… SF is about discovering competences, but should always be temporary, a stepping-stone towards education and/or work.

Currently Social Farming is particular more a participation tool, and not for yet a tool for young people who do not have a regular place in society.  Young people need more opportunities to het into work or get a certification in a non-formal SF way… Currently in the Netherlands, there is a movement to use the tool regarding the young people with disabilities (old Wajong / ‘oude Wajong’). The other young people with disabilities (new wajong – totally disabled) will not be dealt with and be left alone (so also not to the care farm/ social farm). So as regards to the new wajong a few people go directly into benefit. The others will be in a routed into participation… In that case, a social farm would be a good bridge to society… For the 100% disabled it is very hard to put a tool as social farming forward. The key is in the hands of municipality, they can press to do more for these young and disabled

Currently SF is pre-dominantly care orientated (& sometimes cure orientated), but mainly participation. The main goal is inclusion. However, there are already certain ingredients towards work-based through projects (in a safe environment) – although there are also groups who will always stay in care.

However, if you look at the progress of developments, then it should be more tailor-made and adaptable to their needs in relation to work and/or education. Currently the young people are about 8 hours a day on the farm so the other hours they are somewhere else, so this means that the other environment is also very important. So we should think about if we need to implement living AND working on the social farm should be more integrated. It should be clear about the intention: Is there a goal after social farming. The expectations should be related and suitable for the person. More and more social farms address the participants to work on their social skills and their work skills (work readiness).  This last part should be a vital part of every SF match, and can be expanded to professional (work based) skills, which enables the participant to start an MBO 1/entry education. In this practical save environment participants will do much better than in a regular school environment. Social Farms should not be the end of the line. It should be the start to give young people a place in society.