Planned savings on Suicide Hotline budget reversed after backlash, says Minister for Wellbeing

Planned savings on Suicide Hotline budget reversed after backlash, says Minister for Wellbeing
The expertise centre will have to save about €54,000. Credit: Zelfmoordlijn

The Flemish Minister for Wellbeing, Wouter Beke, will save €50,000 on the budget for suicide prevention, but has reversed the planned savings on the Suicide Hotline (Zelfmoordlijn), he announced on Twitter.

Earlier, Beke announced that he would save €50,000 on his suicide prevention budget, which caused a lot of commotion on social media, reports De Morgen.

The planned saving of 1.3% (which is €5,133) on the Suicide Hotline, in particular, caused a lot of backlash online. In a reaction on Twitter, Beke quickly said that the savings would be made up using an accounting trick. "The space freed up will be used to make up for the savings made on the Suicide Hotline," it said.

Translation of tweet: "There will be no savings on the Suicide Hotline. More info below."

Translation of image in tweet: "There will be no savings on the Suicide Hotline. During the previous government, we decided to buy extra vaccines this year in the context of prevention policy. This will create additional budgetary room for next year - for which I would like to thank my colleagues. This will allow us to spare the Suicide Hotline and reverse the 1.3%. Also for the future, because in the next few years new policies will be drawn up for €10 million in prevention."

However, savings on the umbrella centre of expertise will be maintained. "The focus is now very much on the Suicide Hotline," said Kirsten Pauwels, the director of the centre, reports De Morgen. "It is true that the savings on the Suicide Hotline are rather limited, even though we will still feel them, but the Flemish Expertise Centre for Suicide Prevention remains affected," she added.

The expertise centre will have to save about €54,000, said Pauwels, who had the information confirmed at the Agency. "We will have to see how we are going to be doing that," she said.

Translation of tweet: "Happy for our colleagues at the Suicide Hotline but the savings for VLESP (Flemish Expertise Centre for Suicide Prevention) remain 6%. Implementing the Flemish Action Plan for Suicide Prevention and, developing and implementing new evidence-based methods for suicide prevention... Not easy with savings!"

Other organisations such as Sensoa (the expertise centre for sexual health), the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living, the VAD (Flemish Alcohol and other Drugs Expertise Centre) and the Institute for Tropical Medicine will also see part of their resources cut off from 1 January.

One of the biggest victims is the Institute for Healthy Living, which will have to reduce its budget by €320,000 from 2020. "Prevention is already underfunded in Flanders, we score significantly lower than the European average. That they are still cutting in our budget is something I don't understand," said Linda De Boeck, the director of the institute, reports De Standaard.

"Saving money on the Suicide Hotline, cancer screening and alcohol and drugs prevention is just dangerous. How did Minister Beke get this into his head?," said Freya Van den Bossche, a member of the socialist party.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

For any questions about suicide, you can contact the Suicide Hotline anonymously on the free number 1813 or at in Dutch, at 0800 32 123 in French, or on 02 648 40 14 in English.

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