4.6 Access to quality services
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The main initiatives by the Government to support issues concerning the housing of young people are:
- housing loan guarantees,
- home grants for families with many children,
- state-funded housing during the studies
- substitute home service
There is also a provision of dwelling available as a social service. Social Welfare Act (§41) defines the provision of dwelling as a social service organized by a local authority with the objective to ensure the possibility to use a dwelling to a person who due to socio-economic situation is unable to provide a dwelling which corresponds to the needs of the person and his or her family. The provision of dwelling is however not specifically targeted for young people.
Housing loan guarantees under the housing policy The long-term objectives of Estonian housing policy defined by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications are the availability of housing to the Estonian population, quality and sustainability of the housing stock, diversity and balanced sustainable development of residential areas. The initiative of the Government in the framework of the housing policy directed at access to housing and identifying young people as a specific target group is a housing loan guarantee executed by the Foundation KredEx (founded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, to be merged with Entreprise Estonia as of 2022). The housing loan guarantee is designed for people wishing to take a loan for the purchase of new living premises or renovation of the existing ones, and decrease the downpayment obligation. Under the housing loan guarantee scheme there is are two specific youth target groups defined:
- The target group of the young family i.e. a parent or parents raising a child of up to 15 years (included);
- The target group of a young specialist, i.e. an up to 35-year-old (included) person, who has acquired secondary or vocational secondary education (based on basic or secondary education) or vocational education based on basic or secondary education, and meets one of the following conditions below:
- an employment contract, service contract or board member contract has been concluded with the person, whereas the probation period (if applicable) shall be over;
- who is assigned to a post according to the Public Service Act, whereas the probation period (if applicable) shall be over;
- the person is registered in the business register or tax board as a self-employed entrepreneur, whereas he/she shall have operated as an entrepreneur for at least a year.
The housing loan guarantee is demonstrating a clearly increasing need in the market. In 2015 a total of 2,191 households purchased or renovated their homes with this support measure, while in 2019 it was 3,470 households and in 2020 it reached to 3,658 households. The amount of housing loan guarantees has been increasing as well: in 2015 it was 17.5 million euros, in 2019 it was 35 million euros and in 2020 it reached to 40,1 million euros.
Home grants for families with many children is a measure to improve the living conditions of families with many children. The target group of the grant scheme is households with low income, with at least three children under 19 years of age. Eligible activities include decreasing the repayment of the principal part of the current housing loan, purchasing, building, reconstructing, renovating, or expanding housing, the construction, replacement, or updating of technical systems or networks. The support has been growing over the years: in 2015 the applications of 242 families were funded (with total of 1,178 children growing in the families that received funding); in 2019, the number was 337 (with total number of children in these families of 1,192). In 2020 both the overall amount of this support measure was increased (with total amount of 3+ million euros), also the maximum amount per applicant family. In total the living conditions of more than 950 children living in low income families have been improved with this measure in 2020.
Substitute Home Service According to the Social Welfare Act, home service means ensuring family-like living conditions to a child for meeting his or her basic needs, the creation of a secure physical and social environment promoting his or her development and preparation of the child for coping in accordance with his or her abilities as an adult. The target group for the substitute home service are young people under 18 years who have been left without a parent with right of custody. The substitute home service can also be provided to unaccompanied minor aliens, minor victims of human trafficking and sexually abused minors. The substitute home service is financed from the state budget.
Social services in Estonia as part of the social welfare system are regulated in the Social Welfare Act. The social services in Estonia are generally directed to target groups based on needs and the type of challenges a person has (for example disabled people, people with economic difficulties etc).
The Welfare Development Plan 2016-2023 defines improving the accessibility and quality of social services, the development of services that include people in society as an important focus area of welfare setting it as one of the four areas of development. The document also states that the introduction of social innovations and the emergence of social enterprises in the social system will be encouraged.
Specific policies aimed at social services for children and their families have been set in the Development Plan for Children and Families for 2012–2020, supported by specific implementation plans (similarily to other policy strategies that are followed up with operational plans, programmes) that list all the activities, responsible bodies and budgets for these activities until 2023.
Both of these policy plans are aimed to be replaced by The Draft Welfare Development Plan 2023-2030 (Heaolu arengukava 2023-2030 Koostamise ettepanek). While the development and adoption of these policy strategies is still work in progress, it aims at highlighting and proposing solutions to support services provided to children, youth and their families and aims at reforming the support system in order to guarantee that help and support is available at the earliest possible stage, with coordinated efforts from all the needed experts (child welfare, education, medicine etc).
In addition to social services defined through the welfare system, there are initiatives in other policy areas developed in order to support young people.
In education policy there are several policy measures that support acquisition of education: student loan, state education allowance, various scholarships; support for commuting and transportation allowance; support for provision of lunches in general education schools and vocational schools; municipal support (not universal in all municipalities) for lunches in kindergarten, grants for pupils starting in the first grade, yearly grants for the start of the school year). There is also a system of pedagogical counselling and career guidance (see chapter 3.5) established for young people in the education policy area.
In youth policy there are support schemes established for supporting for participation in summer camps for children from families with fewer opportunities, several municipalities provide financial support for participating in hobby education (see chapter 4.8) In order to reduce the potential risks and inequalities as result of the COVID crisis, specific support measures have been introduced since 2020 both in education and youth fields, f.ex support to camps aimed at increasing the learning motivation of children and youth etc.
Health care is provided and general health care provision is available for youth. According to the Health Insurance Act state considered insured permanent residents of Estonia under 19 and persons acquiring basic, general secondary, formal vocational or higher education i.e. their costs of health insurance are covered by Estonian Health Insurance Fund.
Most important health service available to young people besides the care by the family doctors, is a system of health care services provided in general education schools. The students are provided with health services at school, including activities carried out by nurses financed by the school owner.
The priorities of health policy and health care, including in relation to children and youth are defined in the Public Health Development Plan 2020-2030. The main objective of public health policy is to increase the life expectancy of Estonian people and the number of years of healthy life, and to reduce inequalities in health.
The objectives of the public health development plan 2020-2030 are to increase the average life expectancy of Estonian people by 2030 to 78 years of age in men and to 84 in women, and increase the average years of healthy living to 62 years of age in men and to 63 in women. The development plan also sets the goal that by 2030 the life expectancy of people with basic education will not be less than six years from the life expectancy of people with higher education.
The development plan consists of three programmes: human-centred healthcare, health-supporting choices and a health-supporting environment. The health supported options programme discusses the choices a person can make to shape their own habits and lifestyle. The environment programme for health shall focus on the health impacts arising from the environment around us; chemical, physical and biological risks and factors. The human-centred healthcare programme will focus on ways to provide health and social services that meet people's needs and expectations, which are safe, of high quality, and which are more integrated than ever.
While the general approach of the Public Health Development Plan 2020-2030 is to guarantee that awareness raising and support is equally available to everyone lifelong, specific attention is made to children and youth in relation to several objectives, like:
- support to mental health (asu p to 50% of mentaal health concerns appear before the age of 14 and up to 75 % occur before the age of 24 years);
- prevention of injuries (as these appear to be the main reason of death among children and young adults);
- awareness raising and support to healthy eating and physical activeness (as according to research in 2018 26% of children entering the school as 1st grade pupils, were over-weight).
The Government has established a National Institute for Health Development with a task (among others) to support health promotion i.e. the development of a way of life and behaviour which promotes and values people's health, as well as a systematic improvement of a health-supporting physical and social environment. One of the areas of activities to support health promotion implemented by the Institute is targeted at children and youth health. The Institute provides research and analyses related to the health of children and youth, supports local level networking, develops methodical materials and publications, provides training for specialists working with children and youth. The Institute also supports people active in health promotion providing the database of best practices and other relevant information in the dedicated web-portal www.terviseinfo.ee.
Training Centre of the National Institute for Health Development offers professional development courses to specialists working to support health, such as kindergarten and school employees, youth workers, child adopters, foster care families, employees of social welfare services and rehabilitation centres, county and local municipality employees, counsellors, psychologists, health care workers and health promoters, social workers, NGOs, etc. Main areas of training include HIV/AIDS and substance abuse, health promotion and health counselling. In addition, the centre also carries out an analysis of training needs and provides support to trainers in training methodology.
The two main measures to support access to financial services for young people specifically are
- study loan scheme;
- housing loan guarantee scheme (described under housing services in this chapter).
Study loan is a state-guaranteed long-term loan for funding studies in higher education. The right to receive a study loan is held by a full-time student who is an Estonian citizen or resides in Estonia on the basis of a long-term residence permit or permanent residency. Study loans are provided by banks.
There is a debt counselling service available as a social service and organized by a local authority in order to assist a person through enhancing the ability to cope and resolve other problems related to debt. However, the service is not targeted specifically for young people. At the same time the educational programmes targeted at raising the financial awareness and the raise of financial competence among children and youth are emerging, for example also as part of the youth information services in national youth information portal Teeviit.
There is no single system of evaluating all services to support the social inclusion of young people. The services listed above are under the quality assurance mechanism defined by the area such as health, social and financial affairs.
All the services initiated, developed and supported by the Government are part of the strategic planning of the relevant policy area i.e. the mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the policies described in this chapter 4.2. apply, including the indicators set in the documents. However, different policy areas apply different measures to evaluate and support the quality of services. These measures and the outcomes of these measures largely depend on the service, the level of regulation of the service (i.e. how detailed the regulation of the services is) and on the type of the bodies responsible for service provision. The measures can include studies (incl studies of user satisfaction), guidelines, support for self-evaluation, training etc.