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Forthcoming policy developments
In the political understanding between the Social-Democratic minority government and its three supporting parties, the parties agreed on the following focus areas within social inclusion for the period of 2019-2023. These focus areas function as guidelines but do not necessarily result in actual polices:
- Improve the opportunities for people with special needs. There must be quality and legal certainty when it comes to the offers available to people with special needs and functional impairments, and the efforts must be characterised by a high degree of professionalism and the required specialisations. Together with relevant actors, the new government will complete an evaluation of the current planning and organisation of the special needs area with a view to strengthening the initiatives, national knowledge sharing and ensuring the most suitable distribution of tasks between municipalities and regions. The new government will take the initiative to provide better opportunities for young people with special needs or functional impairments to take an education.
- Add clarity to the formulation on the ban on creating or staying in so-called ‘intimidating camps’ and the related option for the police to issue a zone ban so that it is made clear that the intention is to act against individuals who have settled in permanent camps and not homeless people who are forced to sleep outdoors.
- Improve the initiatives aimed at helping and reducing the number of homeless people.
- Reduce the self-payments for dental care – and ideally make it completely free – for the most socially vulnerable.
- Combat child poverty. Irrespective of a child’s background or their parent’s circumstances, it must be ensured that all children in Denmark grow up under decent conditions and have the opportunity to take an active role in the community. The new government will combat poverty and will therefore introduce a poverty limit to enable monitoring of the development. Combating poverty will also be one of the purposes of creating a benefits commission, which must present recommendations within the benefits area within 12 months. These recommendations will serve to alleviate problems related to child poverty, increase labour market participation and simplify the benefits system.
- Until the commission has presented its recommendations, affected families with children will be offered targeted assistance. An annual DKK 250-300 million will be allocated for temporary cash child benefits to be implemented as soon as possible and to be aimed at children aged 0-14 years old in families covered by the unemployment assistance limit or the integration benefits limit. The temporary cash benefit will cease when a future benefits system is implemented.
- Cancel the approved reduction of integration benefits as per 1 January 2020, which has also been included in the earmarked financing.
10-year plan for the psychiatry in Denmark
The government is currently working on a 10-year plan for psychiatry. At the moment, the work is in the exploratory phase, aiming to make an overview that covers the challenges attached to psychiatric care in the healthcare system as well as in social services. A presentation of the plan is expected by the end of 2021.
Coherent measures for citizens with complex problems
The social system in Denmark targets a group of the population with very complex problems. For example, socially marginalised people may be affected by mental illness, problematic substance use and unemployment at the same time. But the system is rarely able to treat several problems at the same time, and measures often target mental illness, unemployment or drug abuse individually.
The government is currently working on a policy initiative in order to present a bill that allows municipalities to introduce coherent measures for citizens with complex problems. The work has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic and young people in Denmark
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns of society in 2020 and 2021, young people have not been able to participate in associational life to the same extent as previously. This has spurred a debate on young people’s inability to thrive and loneliness because of their isolation and exclusion from communities in which they normally participate. Several representatives from education institutions, politicians, youth organisations, researchers and young people have expressed concern over young people’s well-being during the coronavirus lockdown of society. When schools and leisure activities are locked down, and restrictions reduce the number of social contacts, young people are isolated in their families. The isolation gives rise to loneliness, insecurity and a failure to thrive.
For socially marginalised young people, who are one of the most vulnerable groups among young people, it is particularly disturbing to be isolated with parents whose ability to care is reduced. This could be in families with abuse, alcohol problems, violence, etc. The isolation may aggravate the young people’s situation, since the support from pedagogues, teachers and other important adults is missing.