At the end of May 2020, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health appointed a working group to assist in the preparation of the National Child Strategy. The working group was tasked with surveying the rights of the child and the wellbeing of children and families and strengthening these in the post-crisis management of the COVID-19 epidemic. It is great that the Government has highlighted the importance of securing the wellbeing and rights of children, young people and families in emergency conditions and made it one of its priorities.

I acted as chair of the working group. The other members of the working group were Eija Koivuranta from the Family Federation of Finland, Tapio Laakso from Save the Children Finland, Johanna Lammi-Taskula from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Kirsi Pollari from the Central Union for Child Welfare, and Tiina Ristikari from Itla Children’s Foundation. The secretaries of the working group were Sanna Koulu and Laura Saarinen, both of whom are involved in the preparation of the National Child Strategy. I would like to express my warmest thanks to the whole working group for their outstanding commitment to this work.

The working group’s first report was published in late June. The first and second reports form a coherent package, and they are meant to be read together. The working group has received a lot of replies to the information requests it sent to different parties. Thank you for all of them!

Social impact of crisis is particularly felt by children and young people

The COVID-19 crisis has considerable generational effects. It has reduced employment among young people in particular. It has also made children and young people more concerned about their everyday lives and future. It is therefore imperative to reinforce children and young people’s confidence in the future and their experiences of inclusion in everyday life across society.

It can be said that so far Finland has succeed well in managing the COVID-19 crisis. However, it is important to remember that the management of the post-crisis situation will take a long time. Because the crisis has considerable effects on children and young people, the social impact of the crisis may last for a very long time. We need to focus on basic everyday services while at the same time have the sensitivity to detect and respond to emerging problems.

Emergency conditions, such as distance learning and suspension of leisure activities, have affected the everyday lives of practically all children and young people. The effects are, however, different and of varying severity. In particular, the negative effects of the crisis are largely felt by those children, young people and families who are already in a more vulnerable position. Combating inequality must therefore play a key role in the post-crisis management.

The COVID-19 crisis has increased the need for support and services. In addition, the fact that services have been reduced during the emergency conditions has created a service deficit and a backlog in services. It is necessary to ensure both in the short and long term that there are sufficient resources available to safeguard the wellbeing of children, young people and families both in terms of services and income security benefits. It is also important to ensure smooth collaboration between the municipalities and the future wellbeing services counties. In this respect, account must also be taken of organisations.

Collection and analysis of information continue to be needed

The COVID-19 crisis has wide-ranging effects that will be felt for a long time. Many of its effects will become apparent over a longer period of time. Therefore, it is necessary to continue collecting and analysing information and using it systematically in decision-making. It must be ensured that the effects of the crisis on children, young people and families will be assessed systematically when managing the post-crisis situation. To carry out the assessments, it is also necessary to hear the views of children and young people and to make use of the information provided by them. The effects on children, young people and families should also be assessed in connection with budgetary decisions.

Esa Iivonen

 

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