The Norwegian government is now offering free legal assistance to those caught up in in the ongoing scandal around state welfare agency NAV. It’s already being harshly criticized, however, as being “hopelessly complicated.”
The scandal affects those who traveled abroad while collecting unemployment benefits or sick pay, and later had their benefits withdrawn or were even charged with welfare fraud and sentenced to jail. NAV officials now admit they misinterpreted EU rules that Norway must follow, and they allow travel within the European Economic Area (EEA/EØS).
That means all criminal convictions for those who traveled within the EEA/EØS should be overturned, benefits restored and compensation paid out to victims of the NAV’s negligence. Labour Minister Anniken Hauglie, who’s politically responsible for NAV, has promised that NAV clients who want to complain about NAV’s compensation offers can receive free legal aid to pursue claims. Hauglie called the offer “an important step” as the state attempts to “clean up” after years of wrongly enforcing regulations.
A Member of Parliament for the Socialist Left party (SV), however, complains that the legal aid offer is seriously flawed and unnecessarily complicated. He’s demanding better information for NAV users, more staffing to handle claims and more flexibility in determining who’s eligible for the free legal aid.
“Right now its a hopelessly complicated procedure,” MP Petter Eide of SV told newspaper Dagsavisen. “It would be much better if NAV users can contact a lawyer first and obtain an evaluation of whether they’re eligible for compensation. Then the lawyer could help them in the process with NAV.”