4.6 Access to quality services
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The Government Programme promises ten million to support the fight against homelessness in the years 2020-2022. Part of this sum will go towards the development needed in the statistical system related to homelessness. The National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme is specified in actions targeted at young people. It mentions that ‘Young people are one the target groups of a cooperation programme led by the Ministry of Environment aiming to halve homelessness.” That means, says the programme, that the cities must address the housing situation of young people with the necessary housing units and support.
The Finnish Youth Housing Association NAL is a national youth housing expert, which focuses on the development of youth housing and living conditions. NAL provides services that support the success of independent living and produces and distributes information concerning youth housing. Local youth housing associations arrange group and tenant activities. One example of these group activity forms in youth housing is the young mothers’ peer support groups. Also, NAL monitors housing policy and focus on issues, which are significant from the viewpoint of young people (e.g. the production of low-rent apartments, housing costs, subsidies targeted for young people). The services are mainly organised by NAL local area associations in cooperation with the public sector, local organisations and other operators. The services of supported housing are mainly purchased by cities and municipal consortiums. NAL offers versatile housing services for different needs from housing guidance to supported housing. Since 2016, NAL has cooperated with One-Stop Guidance Centres to offer housing guidance. Also, NAL provides the ABCs of housing for young people. The goal is to offer useful information and to make transition to independent living easier.
The local authorities have been responsible for providing social welfare and healthcare services laid down for them by law. This is due to change in the future, because of Health and Social Services Reform. In the future, the counties will be the ones organizing healthcare and social services starting from the year 2022.
Income support should be a last resort and only a temporary solution, although the reality doesn’t always match. Young people receive income support more often than other people, and the number of young people claiming it has increased over the last years. The Government Programme promises a reform in social security. As the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme specifies, there is a will to hear the specific needs of young people arising from their stage of life, when reforming social security. One of the aims is to reduce young people’s need for long-term reliance on social assistance, by offering them more effectively those services they actually need instead. Social assistance is meant for those who don’t have any other means of income.
Both the Government Programme and the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme also mention that young people who have been clients of child welfare services should have more support on their journey to adulthood with a completely new type of multidisciplinary support for reaching adulthood. For example, the right to have after-care has been recently extended until the young person turns 25.
Potential financial provisions for young people include student benefits, housing allowance, social assistance, sickness allowance (young people from the age of 16 are entitled to sickness allowance if they are unable to work due to illness), unemployment benefit, conscripts allowance and other armed service benefits, financial assistance for families (for example maternity grant and child benefits), disability allowance, rehabilitation allowance and medical expenses (EKCYP Information Sheet, 2014). What a disadvantaged young person actually recieves depends on their specific situation, as well as any overlapping statuses they may have. Most benefits in Finland are distributed by Social Insurance Institution Kela, but local social services can also provide temporary social assistance and help with housing.
The Governmental Decree on maternity and child health clinic services, school and student health care, preventive oral health care for children and young people guarantees school health care, dental care, contraception and other sexual health counselling for young people. Also, an examination by a child or youth psychiatrist to determine their mental health status must be available if necessary.
Young people just as all members of society are entitled to public health care, but may also be covered under a healthcare scheme through their employment or study place. Additionally, most schools have their own nurses and, in some cases, psychologists. The Finnish Student Health Service, is an example of a service specifically for young people, which provides basic healthcare and dental services for students in higher education.
Ensuring accessibility to the services and the early recognition of mental health needs for young people are among the main focus of the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme. The Government’s Social and Health Services Reform also has the objective of developing the quality of services. There is going to be a transfer of responsibility for organising the services from 310 municipalities to 22 counties, who will soon be in charge of providing both healthcare and social services.
If a young person is not covered under school healthcare for some reason, municipalities or counties in the future, may provide other services targeted at young people. For example, the city of Tampere has a Youth Clinic, which provides the services of public health nurses, a doctor, and a psychologist working for Tampere residents under the age of 22 who are not entitled to the occupational health care or student health care services. The medical examinations are free of charge. Also, the Youth Clinic provides birth control advice for all Tampere residents under the age of 22.
NGOs are allowed to also offer health services to young people, but according to the legislation, the local authorities are primarily responsible for arranging such services. The Family Federation of Finland is an example of a significant third sector actor working in the social and health sector. The organisation provides services, acts as an advocate and carries out research. The Family Federation of Finland’s website has a section specifically for young people. The goal is to offer guidance and information about sexual health for people under the age of 20. A young person can also book an appointment online. Altogether there are about ten different support- and crisis services offered by phone targeted at young people, approximately thirty online services (in the form of chats or databases for example), and at least four organisations offer face to face support, such as peer support groups and one-on-one appointments at regional Finnish Association of Mental Health crisis centres, at shelters provided by the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters as well as youth shelters provided by the Finnish Red Cross. The contact information and opening hours of the aforementioned services is gathered into one place on the online service “Life of young people” (in Finnish Nuortenelama.fi), organised by Koordinaatti. The National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme calls for further development of digital services, as one of the actual objectives.
The mere fact of being a young person may warrant the need for more support when it comes their well-being and coping their financial situation. Based on a publication by Marko Niiranen “The changes made in the Act on the Adjustment of the Debts of a Private Individual 2015” (in Finnish), youth has become an assessment criteria when applying for and being granted debt adjustment. Based on Niiranen the amendment was made to strengthen the possibilities of young people receiving a positive decision, even if the assessment as such still depends on a combination of many different kinds of criteria - not only age (Niiranen 2015, 226-229).
The Government Programme and the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme recognise the causal relationship between excessive debt and social exclusion. Deprivation connects to over-indebtedness, and economic uncertainty increases the risk of developing mental health issues (stress, depression, etc.). Asiakastieto is one of the leading Finnish companies providing corporate risk management, as well as sales and marketing information services. The company runs a file on consumer credit information such as Payment Default Statistics. According to the statistics in 2021, 12% of 25–29-year-olds, 8% of 25-29 year and about 1% of under 20 have payment defaults. One of the measures provided in the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme is Proactive Financial Counselling, which is offered in Financial Advice Clinics in 16 places nation-wide. Financial advice clinics are a low-threshold service providing an opportunity to discuss everyday financial questions without booking an appointment. There is a possibility to reflect on the situation, receive advice and go through different options with experts in private or by taking part in some group courses counselling called "Fyrkkaa ja fiilistä" (In English those can be called "Money and Feelings”), co-led by a person who has knowledge based on experience, offering group support. Proactive Financial Counselling’s third element is simply offering up-to-date information – the idea is to intentionally break the most common myths related to financial matters.
Building stakeholder networks, training personnel working in Financial Advice Clinics (and other places), and offering Proactive Financial Guidance workshops have played a major role in establishing the counselling system during the years 2019-2021. The personnel include enforcement authorities, as well as financial and debt guidance professionals, who are now working together in a nation-wide organisation that is in contact with clients of all ages. They co-operate for example with outreach youth workers, youth workshop trainers and offer their services also in One-Stop Guidance Centres. The operation of making financial counselling more proactive is led by the Ministry of Justice and the National Enforcement Authority Finland, and is monitored by the Government.
It can be said that in Finland all public services are subject to systematic quality assurance. At the local level, municipalities can allocate resources as they see fit, but they should evaluate the services produced with young people on a regular basis. According to the Youth Act, youth services are in practice implemented according to cross-sectoral cooperation. The local authority has a coordinating body with representation from the local educational, social and health care, and youth administrations and when possible, also from the labour and police administrations for the planning, implementation and assessment of all youth services. Moreover, the central government assesses the local services, and in practice such assessments are referred to as 'Evaluations of basic services', which are carried out by the Regional State Administrative Agencies. The principles offered for equality in the Non-Discrimination Act are, for example, implemented when establishing the evaluation standards.
One way to examine and monitor the social inclusion of young people at the national level are the indicators provided by the State Youth Council.
These indicators evaluate the well-being and living conditions of young people. Some of the indicators are based upon the Youth Barometer and some of them are based on the eight areas of the EU Youth Strategy: context, education, employment and entrepreneurship, health, life management, culture, creativity and hobbies, participation, personal integrity and legal protection (see those EU Youth Strategy related well-being indicators in Finnish here).
The Youth Barometer is published in cooperation between the Finnish Youth Research Network and the State Youth Council. The Youth Barometer studies young people’s values, attitudes and experiences. The theme each year is different: In 2020 the theme of the Youth Barometer was “public services” and in 2019 “working life”, for example. However, some of the questions are repeated every year, which makes it possible to track changes in attitudes. The Youth Barometers’ Time Series has been gathered in the form of indicators. The categories are work and employment, society and democracy, relationships, satisfaction, social exclusion, uncertainty and security. For example, young people are asked annually if they worried about their income, health or future, finding a job, or living in an unsafe environment, and if they are subjected to physical, psychological and/or sexual violence, or if they are lonely. With regards to satisfaction, they were asked how satisfied they were with their financial situation, health, relationships, spare time, and life as a whole.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) works under the guidance of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. It promotes the welfare and health of the population, prevents diseases and social problems, and develops social and health services. Areas include, for example, health and welfare inequalities, health promotion, and gender equality. Additionally, THL promotes the health, well-being and inclusion in multicultural Finland.
With regards to young people, the School Health Promotion Study is conducted annually by THL. The School Health Promotion Study monitors the health and well-being of young people between the ages of 14-20year-olds in Finland. The operations of THL are governed by the corresponding Act and Decree. The results are utilised in the planning and evaluating of health education. The School Health Promotion Study has affected the development of the well-being indicators.
There are several research projects which examine the operational environments of youth policy and services for young people, including services, which promote social inclusion. Many of these projects are funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The information provided by research supports developing and evaluating these services. The experiences of young people, who use services, are at the core of this research.