“People with disabilities can contribute just as easily”

Published on: 23 July 2021

How do you deal with work and money for now and in the future? Do you live from day to day or are you deliberately planning your financial future? And do you arrange ‘later’ yourself or are you participating in a pension fund?

Leena de Wilde receives benefits under the Wajong legislation (Law on provision of incapacity benefit to disabled young people). “But I would rather work to earn money.”


Leena de Wilde (33)

Profession: Secretary, model, actress, volunteer

Weekly works: Irregular

Income: Receives benefits under the Wajong legislation

Savings: A little

Pension is arranged? No


You receive benefits under the Wajong legislation (Law on provision of incapacity benefit to disabled young people), but you also work. What is it that you do?

“Currently mostly modeling and castings. I suffered from a lack of oxygen at birth, causing cerebral palsy. That's why I use a hand-driven wheelchair. I participated in Lucille Werner's beauty contest in 2007 where I managed to make it to the finals. I noticed that I really enjoyed being photographed and signed up for this kind of work at casting and modeling agencies. I was then offered all kinds of jobs and that continues until today. When I am able to make a valuable contribution and the assignment fits me, I definitely go for it. That's also important for the image of people with a physical impairment. If it's functional, I let myself be photographed in my wheelchair and if it's not, I pose sitting or lying down. I have already participated in several commercials and campaigns. It's very varied work that takes you everywhere.”


How often do you model?

“I have a photoshoot, casting or interview every month. I completed regular education and have secretarial qualifications, so I could also look for a job in that area. I previously worked in a hospital, at an insurance office and at a law firm. I could practically start working everywhere people are looking for secretaries or administrative employees. It's a good thing employers are more and more open to the idea of giving people with a disability a chance. It's also a matter of your own attitude towards things. I am very motivated and enthusiastic, and just give it a go. Once you start talking to one another, you can always look for a way to make it work.”


How much do you earn modeling?

“I am usually just paid indemnities. Every now and then I earn something extra. I have to declare that amount to the UWV (Executive Institute for Employee's Insurances) in order to avoid problems with the payment of my benefits. The work generally leaves me with next to nothing.”


How much do you get paid under the Wajong legislation?

“That amount is 1,041 euro net per month.”

Working is good for my feeling of self-worth. I want people to see me like any other person”

Are you satisfied with that income?

“Of course it's great to receive those benefits every month, but it will give me more satisfaction if I have to work for my income. If you work, you earned the money yourself. I believe it's important to work. We, people with a disability, can contribute just as easily. I have held all kinds of jobs starting the age of 15. That's good for my feeling of self-worth. I want people to see me as a human-being, like any other person. In my opinion, that also includes work. If I want to be like any other person, I also have to make my contribution to society. Working hardly earns me more money than being paid benefits, but at least I didn't have to just hold up my hand to get paid.”


You are also a volunteer. Can you tell us about that?

“Being the ambassador of Stichting Welzijn Kinderen (Foundation for the well-being of children) of Bal Anand, I am looking for contributors, give interviews and promote the activities. Bal Anand is an orphanage in Mumbai, where I spend the first few months of my life. I was adopted when I was seven months old. It wasn't clear yet back then that I had this disability, that was only diagnosed in the Netherlands. Otherwise I probably never would have left India. I was given a great opportunity and I wish the same for the children and young adults who are currently living in that facility.

My life would have been very different should I have stayed in India. That's why I am more strongly motivated to live my life to the maximum and to make something of my time here on earth. Of course, it would be great should I be able to walk independently, but I rather focus on the things I am able to do. I look at the positive side of things. You can give purpose to your life within the possibilities you have. I also volunteer for CP Nederland, an organization committed to people with cerebral palsy. As a trainer, I am trying to motivate others who are suffering from this disease to take on sports. That's additionally important for people with CP in order to keep the muscles flexible. I derive great satisfaction from volunteering.”


Are you able to make ends meet with your income?

“Yes, I am. I don't get paid an enormous amount on benefits, but I don't have anything to complain about. I also have a partner who works fulltime.”


How much do you pay on fixed costs?

“We pay an amount of 641 euro on rent every month and we live in an adjusted home with care on demand. Other than that just the usual stuff: insurances, energy, water, internet, etc.”


What else do you spend much money on?

“Now that we have a son, we spend a large part of our income on him. But we don't mind, we are just very happy that he's here.”


Are you able to save money?

“A little bit, but less than the time before our son was born. I always try to pay attention to promotions in order to still have some money left at the end of the month.”


Do you think about your old age sometimes?

“Not really to be honest. I am only 33. But yes, my old age will also arrive one day.”


What do you arrange for your pension at the moment?

“Nothing actually. That really is very uncommon, as I am someone who usually always looks ahead. I was told recently that, following my benefits under the Wajong legislation, I will get AOW (state pension). At least that's something. But I will start arranging something supplementary as soon as possible in order to have enough money later on. It's impossible to live without any money, especially in this day and age.” 

It would be a good thing should you be actively informed on the possibilities in terms of pension”

How do you envisage your old age?

“Provided I am still in good shape, I definitely want to continue doing something, such as volunteering. It's truly valuable to mean something to others. It further depends more or less on what will come my way. I may have grandchildren by then, you never know what life throws at you. In any case, I hope to grow old healthy, was able to give true purpose to my life and are able to enjoy whatever years I have left.”


How much would you like to receive per month following your retirement?

“I would say about 1,500 euro net per month. I am obviously unaware of what everything costs by then. But my son will have long since left home, so our spending will be different compared to these days. If you want to travel sometimes or go out for dinner, you will need some money. My finances are sound at the moment and I would like that situation to continue later on.”


Do you know enough about the possibilities available for your pension?

“No, I would like to learn some more about it. I want to avoid that feeling of: I wish I'd known this earlier. It would be a good thing should you be actively informed on the possibilities in terms of pension instead of having to look for that information yourself. It's always a good thing to be aware of your individual possibilities.”