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Suunta provides services for the young outside office hours

Almost 500 young people have taken advantage of a new 24 hour service trialled by Sitra and Save the Children to offer help and guidance on a range of issues...

Kuvaaja: Joanna Moorhouse

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“High five to you for helping me! I feel like a new person!” One of the young users of the Suunta service.

The web and mobile world is the ideal setting for services targeted at young people. Time and place play no role for the young – office hours do not apply. The one-stop-shop principle lowers the threshold for contacting the service. These were among the results of a trial of the Suunta guidance and counselling service for young people, implemented by Sitra and Save the Children Finland.

Since the autumn of 2013, the Suunta service has provided personal guidance for young people on a 24/7 basis. One-on-one chat sessions are possible on weekdays and Sundays from 5pm to 10pm. At other times, counsellors can be contacted by completing an online form. A personal response is guaranteed within 24 hours. During the period followed up in the autumn, offering guidance was not a hasty process; chat sessions took several hours, and email messages (nearly 20) were sent back and forth for up to a month.

The target group for the Suunta service comprises young people aged 15 to 25, who are at the transitional stage after completing their basic education or secondary studies, and who lack the knowledge of how to proceed or who to contact for advice. Almost 500 young people contacted the service during the autumn of 2013. They were looking for information not only about studies, work and career choices, but about a variety of other topics too, including bullying at school, depression after losing a loved one, learning problems and how to sensibly spend a gap year.

The trial proved that services for the young must be taken to where they are. Web services must be developed into interactive contact channels. A personal contact with an online counsellor is a natural way for young people to communicate. Anonymity encourages them to address all kinds of issues, even sensitive ones. A nationwide one-stop-shop service ensures counselling when the young person moves to another locality or lives in a small community.

The Suunta service complements the nationwide service entity for young people: it is on call outside office hours and easily accessible online without having to wait for days or even weeks. Counsellors have the time to focus on the problems of the young person in question, here and now. Suunta provides services for the young on an equal basis, from Helsinki to Utsjoki. The basic idea of the service is simple: listen to the young person and help them approach adult and working life. For some, an apprenticeship may be the right answer, others may need to raise their grades by staying at school for an extra year, while still others may complete their studies or be encouraged to embark on another career or go back to school to take a missing study credit.

“The experiences gained from the Suunta service support the view that a personal, customer-oriented nationwide service is required for the prevention of social exclusion,” says Kimmo Haahkola of Sitra. “Standardised measures do not work with these youngsters. Young people’s experiences of guidance by the authorities clearly revealed that guidance methods and tools have fallen behind developments in society.”

Veera Uusoksa of Save the Children says the service network was up and running in a short period of time, pooling broad-based, diverse competence in one place. “The communal spirit between counsellors emerged as one of the key factors for ensuring quality discussions. Clear processes and high quality background material contributed as well.”

And, according to researcher Anu Gretschel of the Finnish Youth Research Society: “The service clearly plays a key role in guidance for the young, both as an independent service and as part of more extensive information, advisory and guidance services. The Suunta service helps to reach some of the young people in need of special support that other services have failed, for one reason or another.”

Fact Box

  • Save the Children Finland and Sitra implemented the nationwide Suunta guidance and counselling service for young people in the autumn of 2013 as part of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation Yle’s campaign Nuorille. Nyt! (For young people. Now!). The service will continue its co-operation between Sitra and Save the Children until the end of April 2014: http://nuorillenyt.yle.fi/suunta/ (in Finnish).
  • In early 2013, Sitra launched the Focus on Youth programme with the goal of generating information by opening up, linking and analysing new solutions for identifying and supporting young people at risk of social exclusion. A further goal is to examine the possibilities of constructing a holistic service concept for young people in Finland, in collaboration with various partners. Key features of the concept are a one-stop-shop principle and nationwide low threshold services and 24/7 accessibility: http://mikkelinolkkari.fi/palvelut/tajuamut (in Finnish)

Further information:

About the Sitra project:
Kimmo Haahkola, Senior Lead, Sitra
kimmo.haahkola@sitra.fi, +358 (0)50 380 8603

About the Suunta service:
Veera Uusoksa, Project Manager, Save the Children
veera.uusoksa@pelastakaalapset.fi, +358 (0)50 433 1397

About the report on the Suunta service:
Anu Gretschel, Specialist Researcher, PhD, the Finnish Youth Research Society
anu.gretschel@nuorisotutkimus.fi

Information about the publication:

Experiences of the Suunta service in the autumn 2013 were compiled in a report, available for downloading at Sitra’s website: Kokemuksia nuorten Suunta-ohjauksesta verkossa (in Finnish)

Anu Gretschel and Pirjo Junttila-Vitikka
Sitra and the Finnish Youth Research Society / Youth Research Network
Sitra reports 76. Helsinki 2014. © Sitra
ISSN 1796-7104 (print)
ISSN 1796-7112 (PDF) www.sitra.fi
ISBN 978-951-563-876-2 (print)
ISBN 978-951-563-877-9 (PDF) www.sitra.fi
Youth Research Network/Finnish Youth Research Society, web publications 74

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