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Corona solidified the role of the third sector as a partner in official activities

3.7.2020 9.35

KoronavirusKoronavirus ihmisten arjessaKoronavirus ja järjestöjen tarjoama tuki ja apuSosiaalibarometri 2020KansalaisyhteiskuntaSosiaalibaro

The new Social Barometer 2020 shows that, for example, the active approach of parishes, NGOs and citizens played an important role in the corona-related efforts this past spring. According to the Social Barometer, cooperation between authorities and other actors was excellent. The responses emphasised in particular the third sector’s speed, agility and genuine willingness to help.

As many as 64 per cent of municipal social welfare and health care managers said that new operating methods were launched during the corona period with actors in the third sector.

“NGOs and parishes in different parts of Finland were involved in organising service and food assistance, especially for the elderly, and in making inquiries by phone about the need for assistance,” says Research Manager Minna Kivipelto from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

Employment services launched new cooperation with the third sector for example, in group activities for the most difficult to employ and rehabilitative work activities carried out remotely.

Both employment services and social and health services want to continue cooperation and new forms of operation with the third sector also after the corona epidemic subsides.

Vertti Kiukas Secretary General of SOSTE the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health closely monitored the rapid changes to the activities of organisation this past spring.

“The state of emergency also interrupted the ordinary activities of organisations, such as services for substance abuse and mental health rehabilitees or the elderly. However, at this same time, new operating methods were introduced quickly and efficiently so that those who needed help would not be neglected. For example, the volunteers of the Save the Children’s local associations worked together with municipalities and parishes to distribute gift cards to families with children who were in were experiencing difficulties,” explains Kiukas.

Informal assistance increased, partly dictated by necessity

Social workers reported on help and support their clients had received from other parties. Those in difficult situations also helped others. In addition to the help provided by parishes and NGOs, practical assistance from neighbours was highlighted. Neighbours helped one another, for example, in everyday chores, with shopping, and even in applying for benefits.

On the other hand, social workers were worried about the lack of consolation during the exceptional circumstances for people who did not have neighbours or family members to help.

Corona epidemic revealed social security breaking points

The increase in the activity of the third sector and people themselves has hidden the other side of the issue. The corona epidemic has highlighted the vulnerability of Finnish social security, i.e. the vulnerability of services and financial benefits that secure income in emergency conditions. The enormous number of people using the last-resort social assistance, the increase in debt problems and the increase in the need for food assistance have revealed the weaknesses of the state social security system.

Public services were only partially able to reach and respond to the consequences of the corona epidemic. The situation of the elderly, in particular, was difficult in the exceptional situation: while the informal help and support of the loved ones had gone down or had been reduced, the assistance provided by the municipality was also reduced.

Responsibility for the failure of the last-resort safety net had to be borne by organisations as well as the parishes’ diaconal work. For people in difficult situations, the situation also activated informal help and support.

”The third sector continues to play a crucial role in securing the income and dignity of the most vulnerable people,” says Research Professor Heikki Hiilamo.

Based on the results of Social Barometer 2020, there is reason to be particularly concerned about how the welfare state maintains its promise to look after those who are most vulnerable.

“The comprehensive reform of social security launched this past spring will also have to take a stand on the share of responsibility for social risk-taking among public actors – the state, municipalities and employers – and the extent to which the risks will be transferred to civil society,” Minna Kivipelto sums up.


  1. Heikki Hiilamo, Research Professor, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, tel. + 358 29 524 6150
  2. Vertti Kiukas, Secretary General, SOSTE the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health, tel. + 358 40 592 4287
  3. Minna Kivipelto, Research Manager, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, tel. 029 524 7760
  4. Implementation of Social Barometer 2020: Anne Eronen, Researcher, SOSTE, the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health, tel. + 358 40 678 9441

The Social Barometer survey conducted in May 2020 was addressed to social welfare and health care managers and social workers in municipalities and cooperation areas, the management of TE Offices and the management of Kela’s benefits and customer services (n = 776). This was a complete study with good representativeness. Social Barometer 2020 was implemented jointly by SOSTE and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

Advance information on Social Barometer 2020 results in Finnish:

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