Most of the changes to the civil status or domestic situation of survivors receiving a benefit paid under the National Survivor Benefits Act (Anw) are processed automatically by the population register. This is not the case, however, when survivors again enter into a co-habitation arrangement (shared household). This is a change that they need to report individually. If they fail to do so (in time), then benefits received without entitlement must be repaid, plus a fine.
It is not always clear to Anw recipients whether and when they should report changes to their civil status or domestic situation. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid, SZW) therefore commissioned CentERdata to conduct an experiment, jointly with the Social Insurance Bank (Sociale Verzekeringsbank, SVB). The effect of a personal and friendly letter (as an information service), reminding the survivors to consider how their current domestic situation relates to the statutory rules regarding co-habitation, was analyzed.
Approximately 15,000 Anw recipients with an entitlement of one year or longer were sent this letter, while a control group of similar size did not. Afterwards, the two groups were then interviewed by means of a survey.
The experiment reveals that the likelihood that a survivor will report a change that may lead to the termination of the benefit is 30% higher after having received such a letter than if they do not. A letter reminding survivors to fulfill their obligation to report changes can therefore be considered an effective and efficient means to achieve behavioral change.
This behavioral experiment has been included in the series “Rijk aan gedragsinzichten: editie 2017” of the Behavioural Insights Netwerk Nederland (BIN NL). More information (in Dutch) can be found here.