10.8 Current debates and reforms
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Forthcoming policy developments
As reported in the press release (13.8.2021, available in Finnish) from the Ministry of Education and Culture handling its suggestions related to the state budget in the year 2022, the existing work procedures continues as mentioned when it comes to for example youth engagement, hindering social exclusion and development of the youth work and youth policy, as described in the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme 2020-2023. Funding for youth work was supposed to be 5 million euros less for 2022 than what was allocated in 2021, but the planned budget cut was later cancelled. One main reason for not cutting the annual budget was the pandemic and its effects on the field of youth work. Still the determining factor behind the possible upcoming reductions is that youth work among others has been funded mostly with gambling revenues and gambling related harms are now to be reduced in accordance with different kinds of regulations. If the reduction of gambling revenues is not compensated for at all in the future, the funding of all beneficiary sectors will, according to the press release of the Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi (18.10.2021), fall by around 300 million euros starting in 2024.
According to the press release (19.9.2022) of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the budget proposal for 2023 of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government will continue to invest in education and culture. Still, when the compensation for the reduction in the proceeds of the beneficiaries of gambling activities will be implemented at the same level as in 2022, it is proposed to decrease the funding of the appropriations for youth work by 4,2 million euros in 2023. The upcoming Parliamentary elections in April 2023 may still have an effect on the funding situation. See more in Youth Wiki/Finland 1.7 Funding youth policy.
As described in the Youth Research Network’s Näkökulma-publication (Viewpoint) entitled ‘What is school youth work? The research checks the definitions and aims of school youth work’ (available in Finnish), in Finland the state policy supports the rights of youth work to also take place in schools, as well as youth work’s potential to support individuals and groups in that arena. According to the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme 2020–2023, school youth work creates connections towards a smoother everyday living for many young people and towards a reduction in social exclusion. State subsidies for the school youth work have been shared by the Regional State Administration. In the funding regulations the role of school youth work is also seen as healing power when it comes to the damages caused by the lowered amount of contact teaching resulting from the Covid-19 epidemic. Based on those documents, youth workers are seen to have a professional capacity to support the development of group spirit in classrooms, as well as support the anti-bullying work. When it comes to the deeper nature of youth work, the text mentions that youth work might really have the capacity to bring to schools some new resources related to the needs aforementioned, because youth work always starts by hearing the youth’s point of view, and recognises the different kinds of life situations young people are in as well as their varying meaningful social relations, different kind of needs, cultures and their connections to the school cultures and first of all, recognised the young people themselves positively. This research is conducted by a research group Susanna Jurvanen, Eila Kauppinen, Tomi Kiilakoski, Antti Kivijärvi, Sofia Laine, Pia Nyman-Kurkiala and Anna Siegfrids. They work for the Youth Work Centre of Expertise Nuoska, which develops youth work models and evaluation methods at schools and educational institutes. The Center is led by the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences’s Youth Research and Development Center Juvenia.
Two main debates essentially have taken place on the field of youth work in the last few years: one is the development of the impact evaluation work on the field of youth work, and the other concerns the recognition of competences young people gain through youth work and volunteer activities.
In Hyvän Mitta –project (2016–2019) the evaluation processes of impacts and effectiveness was developed in multiple societal organisations, and thanks to that work a guide book was created to support the evaluation work by various actors (Anoschkin 2019). Sofia Laine and Marja Moisala (2021) used Anoschkin’s impact chain model in their research about the impact evaluation of online youth work and argued, that when developing the impact evaluation of online work, the overall impact evaluation of youth work must be taken into account due to the fact that the objectives are ultimately the same. Nevertheless, as they point out, the realities of online environments must be considered, so the short-term nature of online encounters and the anonymity of young participants can be taken into consideration as well. The impact evaluation of youth work has been one of the main themes, also in the research projects of targeted youth work (Vauhkonen & Hoikkala 2020), workshop activities (Kinnunen 2016), open-access youth work (Evaluation tool testing project 2018–2021 by Finnish Youth Research Network) and the impacts of Erasmus+ activities in Finnish context (Jousilahti, Hokkanen & Surakka 2019).
As recommended in Youth Work in the Spotlight. Guide to Recommendation CM/Rec(2017)4 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to member States on youth work, the local governments should invest in the recognition of competences gained through youth work and non formal and informal learning by promoting the recognition of competences developed through participating in and delivering youth work, and by giving increased support to implementing the existing and future European frameworks and agendas on the recognition of non-formal and informal learning. The Youth Work Centre of Expertise Kentauri improves the identification and recognition of young people’s competence by its Digital Competence Disc (Digitaalinen Osaamiskiekko, funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture), which allows young people to convert the competence they have developed in their free time into ECTS credits and suggests ways to make use of the prior learning in their studies. Kentauri has also developed competence badges (supported by Open Badge Factory), which are standard, verifiable, portable, and shareable digital micro-credentials with embedded information about the skills and achievements of their recipients. Kentauri has seven different badges (support person, team leader, salesperson, communicator, peer supporter, event actor and educator), which support the identification and recognition of young volunteers' non-formal and informal competence in their studies or in relation to their potential employers.