4.7 Youth work to foster social inclusion
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The Youth Act and the Government Decree on Youth Work and Youth Policy form the base of legal framework of youth work in Finland. According to the Youth Act, youth work means means the efforts to support the growth, independence and social inclusion of young people in society. Also, according to the Non-Discrimination Act, the authorities evaluate the realisation of equality in their activities and take the necessary measures to promote the realisation of equality. This means that municipalities (see Glossary) must promote equality in services, including youth work. According to legislation, municipalities are responsible for the equality mapping of their services, but sincethe legislation came into effect in 2015, not all municipalities have implemented the task yet.
The legislation on outreach youth work entered into force in January 2011. According to the definition of outreach youth work provided by the amended Youth Act, the purpose of outreach youth services is "to reach young people in need of assistance and provide access to services and other support designed to promote their growth, independence, social inclusion and life management skills as well as to improve access to education and facilitate entry into the labour market." In this sense, the definition of outreach youth work in the Finnish context corresponds to the definition of targeted youth work. The consortium administered by Into – Association for Outreach Youth Work and Workshop Activitiesis also one of the Youth Work Centre of Expertise approved by the Ministry of Education and Culture for the years 2020-2023, see more of the all youth work centres of expertise in Youth Wiki/Finland 1.4 Youth Policy Decision-Making.
Also, the amendments made in the Youth Act already in 2010 have significantly developed the role of youth workshops. The youth workshop activities are specifically targeted at the NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training). The target group includes unemployed young people and adults without vocational or professional qualifications or work experience, career-changers, job-seekers with disabilities or a diminished ability to work, people recovering from substance abuse or mental health problems, long-term unemployed, people unable to work full time, and immigrants who need assistance in entering the Finnish labour market.
What is then meant by ‘youth workshop’? ‘Workshops in Finland are communities that aim to support the participants’ everyday life management, social empowerment, and employability skills, and thus, promote their access to education and work.’ This definition was borrowed from the report of the Erasmus+ funded development project “Paving the way to formal Education”, where Finnish youth workshops co-operated with their colleagues from Austria, Denmark, France, Germany and Slovenia. Although professionals doing roughly the same work in other European countries refer to such youth organisations as “production schools”, Finns have chosen to use the English word ‘workshop’.
According to the Youth Act and the Government Decree on Youth Work and Youth Policy, the Ministry of Education and Culture allocates state subsidies for youth work programmes. This also covers inclusive youth work programmes, which have specific target groups. A few examples are listed below.
The most visible forms of targeted services in Finland are workshops for young people and outreach youth work. Approximately 90 per cent of municipalities have workshops for young people. Outreach youth work is financed by targeted government subsidies and carried out in 95 per cent of municipalities. The main objective of outreach youth work is to reach those young people under 29 who are in need of support and direct them to the sphere of such services, or other forms of support that promote their growth and independence as well as their access to education and work.
According to the Youth Act, the purpose of outreach youth services is to reach a young person in need of support, and help him or her find services that will promote his or her growth and independence, and his or her access to education and to the labour market. Secondly, outreach youth work is primarily based on information provided by the young person and on his or her personal estimate of the need for support.
The objective of youth workshops is to improve the skills and abilities of young people and to enable them to access education or training, to complete their education or to become employed. Also, workshops support life management skills, social empowerment, social growth at one’s own pace and learning by doing.
Educational travel -training (in Finnish Nuotta) is a social youth work project of national youth centre network (see the Finnish Youth Centres Association) supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Nuotta training is targeted at young people between the ages of 13 and 28. Nuotta coaches seek to empower young people and challenge them to take control of their own daily routine: they assist them with such things as time management, the ins and outs of social life, and life management skills. Nuotta encourages social engagement and supports young people in their efforts to take responsibility for their study and work paths. Activities are based on the theory of experiential learning (e.g. climbing, trekking, canoeing, archery, arts and different problem-solving games). The typical length of these activities is 2-4 days. In 2021 there is nine youth centres that have the status of a national youth centre based on Youth Act. The specialty of the national youth centres is that they also offer accommodation, which also differentiates them from the local youth centres which offer free-time activities for local young people on daily basis by the municipalities.
The National Youth Work and Policy Programme highlights what is already stipulated in the Government Programme, where it declares that people have more trust in society when non-discrimination and security are strengthened. Different kinds of minority groups warrant support: Roma youths, young people with immigrant background, disabled young people and those who are members of sexual or gender minorities. The Ministry of Justice’s Discrimination-free Zone was launched in youth work in 2021. Moreover, the statutory equality plans of youth work and youth fields in general will be the main focus. After observation of the actual situation, the ministries promise supplementing measures during the program period so that plans can be realised. Equality planning aims to develop the functions of organisations and communities, with the idea being that in some way or another, all members of the community are to be included in planning.
In Finland, at the local level municipalities are responsible for youth work (see Glossary). For example, there are more than a thousand youth houses in daily use, outreach youth work programmes and youth workshops. Also, registered youth organisations, national youth centres and parishes provide youth work services. These activities are funded partly by state subsidies, while outreach youth work is entirely subsidised. The youth work provided by parishes is funded by church taxes.
Humak University of Applied Sciences and XAMK University of Applied Sciences provide education and training for youth work professionals (Community Educators, Degree Programme in NGO and Youth Work, etc.). The social inclusion of young people form a part of studies; for example, Humak offers a course (30 ECTS) Young People and Social Inclusion.
The Government finances youth work that fights against social exclusion. One of the most important ways to guarantee the activities and the position of youth work in Finland is through governmental appropriations for the youth field. For more information, see Youth Wiki/Finland 1.7 Funding Youth Policy.
Into – Association for Outreach Youth Work and Workshop Activitiesprovides a Quality Criteria Model Sovari (in Finnish), which focuses on social empowerment in workshop activities, outreach youth work, and Educational travel -training (in Finnish Nuotta). The goal is to produce consistent information about the efficiency of services for professionals and for the Government. The quality criteria model covers self-knowledge and self-confidence, social skills, everyday life management, competences in studying and working, and goal orientation. The results of the Sovari assessment were also mentioned in the Government Annual Report 2020 in its Appendix 1 (in Finnish), which includes the Reports of effectiveness of the ministries: “According to Sovari -assessments’ results, young people are finding that their skills of life management are getting stronger. They were able to structure their future plans, they had faith in reaching their objectives, there was perseverance to move further even when there were hardships, and they had resources to realise matters relevant to them. 94 % of the clients of outreach youth work and 92% of youth workshops experienced social empowerment during the service measured in 2020 with Sovari Quality Criteria model.” The National Audit Office of Finland has recently evaluated youth workshops and outreach youth work. For more discussion regarding which relevant indicators prevail, see more in Youth Wiki/Finland 3.11 Current debates and reforms.