4.6 Access to quality services
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There are no national housing policies designated specifically for young people. Sweden does not have social housing programmes either. Young people with special needs have the right to apply for access to housing with special services. When it comes to students, accommodation in Sweden is generally managed by organisations or companies separate from the university itself.
The Social Services Act (SoL) is the law which controls how social services work in Sweden. Social services have responsibility for many different areas of the community, including children and young people. Their work based on what is best for the young person, following the UN Convention of the Rights of a Child.
Social services work to ensure that young people who are in a difficult position get the help and support they need. In order to be able to carry out this responsibility, social services must be informed if a child or teenager is in need of help. Those who are employed within the public sector, i.e., at a school or within healthcare, are obliged to make a report to social services in such cases.
The law also requires all adults to inform social services if they believe that a child or an adolescent is in trouble. The law states that a report should be made and that this type of report can be made anonymously. The duty to make a report is there to protect the young.
Sometimes it is best for a young person to be moved out of their home and away from their guardians. There can be various reasons for this; the child may have been badly treated at home, i.e., abused, or maybe the parents are addicts, or it could even be that the parents cannot manage the child because she or he has an addiction or injures him/herself.
Social services usually investigate whether the child can live with somebody close to the family instead, for example a relative. This is not always suitable, i.e., if the reason for why the child cannot live at home is related to honour-related violence. in which case it is better that the child lives with someone who is not closely related with their family.
LVU is the Swedish Care of Young Persons Act. It is with the support of this act that children can be placed somewhere against their parents'/guardians’ wishes. In the first place, all care of children falls within the framework of the Social Services Act. If parents and/or the child oppose the care, it may be imposed under the terms of the LVU. A person under the age of eighteen can be taken into care without their consent for two reasons:
- if there is a lack of care or poor living conditions at home, i.e., oppression, threats or violence, or
- if the young person causes harm to themselves in some way, i.e., through substance abuse, criminal or other subversive behaviour.
This may lead to care at special residential homes for young people. The Swedish Agency for Public Management has in 2022 conducted a study on residential homes that are run by the National Board of Institutional Care (Statens institutionsstyrelse). The agency found deficiencies at several of the residential homes for young people, such as disproportionate use of confinement and restrictive measures (SiS vård av barn och unga enligt LVU).
All schools, from pre-school to upper secondary schools, are obliged to offer student health care (elevhälsa), according to the Education Act. Health services in schools include medical, psychological and psychosocial care and advice, and also the right to special education.
The Education Act regulates these services. Every school must provide access to a school doctor, school nurse, psychologist and social worker for medical, psychological and psychosocial interventions.
According to the Education Act, all students shall be offered health visits that include general health checks. Between health visits, students should be offered vision and hearing screenings, and other limited health checks. Health visits also offer an opportunity for students to discuss their general health situation with the school nurse.
Student health has an important role in identifying eventual needs of special support. According to the preparatory works to the Education Act, the purpose of overall student health is, among other things, to result in decisions on special needs education for students who need it.
Youth Guidance Centres
Youth Guidance Centres (ungdomsmottagningar) are targeted at young people aged between 12 and 25 years of age. The guidance centres can be found in most of municipalities in Sweden, and offer different services for sexual and reproductive health and rights, for instance, prescriptions for birth control pills, free or low-cost condoms and tests for chlamydia and other infectious diseases. Many centres also provide mental health services.
To visit a Youth Guidance Centre is free of charge. Normally, an appointment is needed before a visit. But many centres have drop-in times too.
The different centres have various kinds of staff working, but all have midwives and counsellors. Most centres have a doctor. The staff helps the visitors with further services, if needed, for example the psychiatry clinic for children and young people (BUP).
Psychiatry clinics for children and young people
Psychiatry clinics for children and young people (BUP) are open for children and adolescents under 18 years of age. Once aged 18, adult psychiatry clinics are attended.
A young persons or a parent can make the first contact by calling a clinic for advice. Many clinics have special times when a new client can speak directly with a therapist. To start with, it is important to decide whether the problem is something child and adolescent psychiatry can help with, or if somewhere else offers better support, such as school healthcare, social services, family counselling or a youth guidance centre.
For many, a few counselling sessions are sufficient to find a solution to the problem. If additional treatment is required, there are many alternatives. To mention some examples, different forms of family therapy forms are offered as well as different forms of group therapy.
The clinics also work individually with children and teenagers, and even offer pharmacological therapy. All visits are free of charge. Over the past decade, waiting times have become longer and are now considered an issue that hinders young people's access to healthcare.
The Social Services Act (Socialtjänstlagen) states what is included in income support, and that there should be a national norm for some of the costs. The national standards covering costs for food, clothing and telephone are equal for all. The support covers reasonable costs for accommodation, electricity and home insurance.
Young people under the age of 18 years old are normally the responsibility of their parents, as are young people under the age of 21 who still are in upper secondary education. They do not have the right to claim individual income support.
Financial assistance can be applied for by contacting the social services in the municipality.
Financial aid for studies
Financial aid (studiestöd) is money young people can receive during their active student years.
There are various kinds of financial aid for studies:
- when attending upper secondary school, a young person may be eligible for a study allowance (studiehjälp), including a student grant
- when attending a folk high school, adult secondary education programme (Komvux), national adult education programme, or another compulsory or upper secondary school, a young person may apply for student aid (studiemedel) starting in the autumn of the year that a person turns 20
- when attending a college or university, a young person may also apply for student aid (studiemedel).
The Health and Social Care Inspectorate
The Health and Social Care Inspectorate (IVO) is a government agency responsible for supervising health care, social services and activities under the Act concerning Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional Impairments (LSS).
IVO's supervision remit covers the processing of complaints concerning, for example, the reporting of irregularities in health care and social care and the municipal obligation to report non-enforced decisions.
Evaluation of financial coordination of rehabilitation measures
The Act on Financial Coordination of Rehabilitation Measures (Finsam) entered into force in 2004. The monitoring has focused on describing and analysing activities undertaken within the framework of Finsam.
The Swedish Social Insurance Inspectorate (ISF) has been commissioned by the government to evaluate the organisation and activities of Finsam. The assignment is reported in three parts. The purpose is to provide an overview of the coordination agencies and to evaluate the effects of their activities at municipal and individual level.
Reporting of the assignment is divided into three parts:
- Samordningsförbundens verksamhet och organisering (Coordination Agencies' activities and organisation, 2019)
- Utvärdering av de samlade/totala effekterna på kommunnivå - Gör samordningsförbund någon skillnad? (Evaluation of the total effects at municipal level - Do the Coordination Agencies make any difference?, 2019)
- Samordnat stöd gör skillnad. En analys av effekterna av samordningsförbundens verksamhet på individnivå (Coordinated support makes a difference. An analysis of the effects of the Coordination Agencies' activities at the individual level, 2023)
Other central actors
The Swedish National Audit Office (Riksrevisionen) is part of the central control power of the Swedish Parliament. Their task is to contribute to the efficient use of resources and efficient management of the state through an independent audit of all government's operations. The agency audits both government agencies accounting and the effectiveness in the state's commitments.
The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has the governmental task of analysing and evaluating state-funded activities. The agency has conducted a large number of studies, among others, about the Public Employment Service's work and labour market programmes. The agency has in 2022 conducted a study on special residential homes for young people, which are run by the National Board of Institutional Care (Statens institutionsstyrelse). The agency found deficiencies at several of the residential homes, such as disproportionate use of confinement and restrictive measures and has made several suggestions to ensure proper care (Statskontoret, 2023).