Young people matter – how to ensure no one falls through the safety net
A new direction for services for children and young people lies in prevention, seamless co-operation and a one-stop shop. One national point of contact for guidance and counselling would guarantee year-round access to services, regardless of the location. In its recent publication, Services for Children and Young People 2020, Sitra advocates a “112 services for children and young people”, providing multi-channel services 24/7. This topic was discussed with MPs and experts at the Sitra Debate on 27 August 2015.
The safety network for families with children and young people has become a complex jungle, where it is often difficult to find and get help. In many cases, municipal and sectoral boundaries prevent the provision of comprehensive assistance. Finland has become a country of thousands of service points, effectively marginalising the customers – our young people.
In its summary of a two-year project on the prevention of social exclusion among young people, Sitra proposes a national service centre guiding families and young people towards the relevant services. The service centre would function as an information point for local services. It would lower the threshold for seeking help and ensure access to early support. Guidance would be equally available everywhere in Finland, every hour of the day on every day of the year. The service would be based on a multi-channel approach and could be contacted through mobile chat, for example. Many sound practical models are available. For instance, the One-Stop Guidance Centres currently being launched could form part of a multi-channel counselling network.
The focus of work with children and young people should be shifted towards preventive approaches and services should be arranged in a child- and family-oriented manner across administrative boundaries. The same goal is set out in the government programme. Co-operation between those working with children and young people across sectoral and municipal boundaries is an essential preventative tool which should be strengthened. People often cite privacy protection during discussions on the co-operation gap – with the result that no one has an overall picture of child-related services. Prevention is always more economic and humane than unravelling a tangle of problems in retrospect. A child and family deserve support, tailored for them in such a way that they do not need to repeat their story in several places.
Within the existing resources for such services, much better results could be achieved using the Sitra model. The new Youth Act is currently under preparation; its guiding principles should include prevention and seamless co-operation across municipal and sectoral boundaries.
“Social welfare and healthcare services are being developed as a single, national entity. On the same basis it would be natural to implement services for children and young people as municipal local services and centralised, cross-municipal services including elements such as the national service centre proposed by Sitra,” says Director Antti Kivelä of Sitra.
“Will we fix things expensively, or provide sensibly timed help? Well-functioning models are already available,” continues Kimmo Haahkola, a Leading Specialist from Sitra.
Sitra has created two new operating models in collaboration with its partners: the Tajua Mut! (Understand me!) project boosts co-operation between professionals, and the Suunta (New direction) project run by Save the Children provides young people with guidance on education and employment-related issues, including outside office hours. The Suunta service assists young people around the country. The Tajua Mut! model, just established in Mikkeli and being piloted in Espoo and Kerava, could be expanded to cover the whole country. Fresh operating models in Finland and other parts of the world were studied as background for these projects.
The Sitra Debate is a series of discussion events which give centre stage to current topics of interest on Finland’s future.
The information and examples of good practices gathered in co-operation projects related to the prevention of social exclusion among young people have highlighted areas in need of change in the current service system. Sitra’s proposal for the development of services is now presented in the pamphlet Services for Children and Young People 2020 – So that no child or young person falls though the safety net.
Information about the publication:
Lasten ja nuorten palvelut 2020 – Jotta yksikään lapsi tai nuori ei tipahda turvaverkon läpi
(in Finnish; Services for Children and Young People 2020 – So that no child or young person falls though the safety net)
Working group: Suvi Ervamaa, Kimmo Haahkola, Marja Illi, Antti Markkola, Henna Tukiainen, Kirsi Suomalainen
ISBN 978-951-563-934-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-951-563-935-6 (PDF) www.sitra.fi