The service system has been weakened for a long time, citing both economy and morale. During the pandemic, the situation has worsened.
Koskelan death in Helsinki upsets. The young man’s unique life ended in an exceptionally gruesome way.
According to public information about the case, the 16-year-old who was killed was deprived of the help he needed, even though he had needed better protection and security from society for a long time.
The investigation of events in Koskela is important both for the identification of possible omissions and for the identification of structural deficiencies in the system. Only a comprehensive assessment of events can prevent the recurrence of such tragedies. Focusing solely on finding the culprits may obscure the perception of the social conditions in which professionals currently working to support and protect young people are currently operating.
Welfare state the base has been weakened since the 1990s. Economic discipline, which emphasizes the need to cut public services, and demands for more efficient services are still the dominant themes in the societal debate. Major cuts have been made to the services and education of children, young people and families.
As a result, teachers are exhausted and student care is strained. Child protection is unable to meet the growing number of customers. The police do not have time to look for young people who have escaped from the institutions. Queues for mental health services are growing.
The service system has been weakened on the grounds of both economy and morality. The distribution of the costs of the welfare state, the inefficiency of public services, and the passivating effects of social security are often discussed in moralizing voices, disapproving of the state’s role as patron and emphasizing the individual’s responsibility for his or her own life.
Young people do not strive for independent living on an equal footing. Some young people need support to cope with the challenging situations in their lives, some to level out the weaker starting points of others.
When a young person is left out of aid, it is a matter of structural negligence or even abandonment. Society’s support networks have thinned, and as a result, young people have become more clearly divided into survivors and dropouts. Nausea among young people has increased. A congested and fragmented service system is unable to provide the necessary services to everyone. Therefore, young people’s confidence that the system will be able to help and protect them is also weakening.
In services provided to young people, waiting times are long, and during waiting times, the situation of young people often becomes more difficult. The intervals between appointments stretch unreasonably, or the clientele is decided from the young person’s point of view too soon.
Now during the coronavirus epidemic, young people report that services have become even more congested. For many, peer relationships built entirely in services have ended, and important therapy visits may also have been disrupted.
Help work is often done as fixed-term projects or development projects. It makes the continuation of support relationships uncertain and makes it difficult for young people to establish confidential adult contacts.
If services are planned narrowly from the perspective of the performance responsibility of an individual actor, information on youth issues does not flow seamlessly between authorities across sectoral and municipal boundaries. Many young people disappear with their needs into such a shadow.
Getting help requires young people and those close to them to have the resources and ability to seek help from a variety of services. In a stressful life situation, this can be overwhelming.
School bullying, crimes committed by young people or possible negligence on the part of the authorities should not be seen in isolation from the social conditions that give rise to these problems.
The search for individual mistakes or culprits prevents us from having a principled debate about the priorities of our society and the erosion of the welfare state – as well as the rhetoric that calls into question the legitimacy of the welfare state.
Jenni Kallio and Päivi Honkatukia
The authors are researchers in the All-Youth research project at the University of Tampere.
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