According to the Social Barometer 2020 publication social workers have assessed that economic hardships, such as the need for food aid and debt problems have increased during the corona epidemic. 73 per cent of social workers estimated that the need for food aid has increased, and more than 40 per cent said that rent arrears and other debt problems have become more common during the state of emergency.
”The results are in line with the experiences of third sector actors, according to which the amount of food aid has possibly even doubled during the corona epidemic,” says Merita Jokela, Senior Researcher at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
”Although lay-offs and the economy’s downturn affect a large part of the population, the restrictions during the state of emergency have hit households that were already experiencing income difficulties. In particular, many families with children have had a tough time managing, as children being at home instead of at school has also influenced the family’s food expenditure. This may be reflected in a growing need for food aid,” Jokela continues.
Assessments concerning Kela’s success contradictory
Kela’s management and municipal social workers disagree on how well Kela has succeeded in responding to the service needs of basic social assistance clients during the corona epidemic.
92 per cent of Kela’s management believed that Kela had succeeded well or fairly well in the performance of the duty, whereas less than half of social workers (43%) agreed with this.
27 per cent of social workers estimated that Kela has performed poorly or fairly poorly in managing basic social assistance. In particular, in Uusimaa and large municipalities with a population of over 200,000, the share of social workers who are critical of Kela’s operations is higher than in other areas.
”The results are probably due to the fact that social workers are mainly in contact with clients seeking preventive and supplementary social assistance and who are experiencing more serious financial and other problems. However, the differences in perception between Kela’s management and social workers is indicative of serious cooperation problems that may jeopardise the livelihoods and decent lives of society’s most vulnerable,” says Heikki Hiilamo, Research Professor at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
In crises, remote social assistance services neglect the weakest
Social workers described clients experiencing difficulties because some of Kela’s offices have been closed or access to services has only be available by appointment. Clients have not always been aware of how they can reach Kela’s customer service personnel to manage their social assistance matters.
”The results indicate that the transition of services in a crisis situation online has made it even more difficult for the most vulnerable to access services,” says Anna Järvinen, Senior Specialist at SOSTE.
The problems with Kela’s services have mainly concerned those client groups who do not use electronic services. These include the elderly, foreign-language speakers and clients who do not have access to the network at home. The situation has been better for e-service users.
- Merita Jokela, Senior Researcher, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, + 358 29 524 7170
- Heikki Hiilamo, Research Professor, National Institute for Health and Welfare, + 358 29 524 6150
- Anna Järvinen, Senior Specialist, SOSTE, tel. + 358 50 586 5677
- Implementation of Social Barometer 2020: Anne Eronen, Researcher, SOSTE, + 358 40 678 9441