In addition to the above measures that involved financial payments to achieve social ends, the system of social care provided welfare services. By the mid-1980s, some 90,000 state and local employees were using about 5 percent of Finland's gross national product (GNP) to deliver a wide variety of social services under the overall direction of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The expansion of the welfare system in the 1960s and the 1970s had caused the number of social workers roughly to triple between 1970 and 1985. Since 1981 workers entering the field had been required to have university training.
National government subsidies of from 30 to 60 percent of costs had the goal of making social services uniform throughout the country, so that residents of even the most isolated community had the same range of services as were offered in Helsinki, though this aim was not always met. Social services were usually free, and they were available to anyone who wanted them, irrespective of the recipient's income. Information furnished to social workers was confidential and could not be released, even to another government agency. The ultimate aim of welfare services was to increase the quality of life and the independence of the client so that welfare services were no longer needed.
The Social Welfare Act of 1982 replaced some older laws; it charged local government with providing such social services as general and family counseling and with making housing available to those needing it, most notably the aged and the infirm, troubled youth, and alcoholics. The law detailed local responsibilities for assigning specialists to assist persons living at home but no longer fully able to take care of themselves and for maintaining institutions for persons, be they aged, mentally handicapped, or addicted, whose afflictions were so serious that they could no longer live at home.
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