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How should we strengthen young people’s faith in the future?

Janne Savolainen Anna Toni Published Date 29.7.2019 13.07 Blog Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment

Ohjaamo centres are low-threshold one-stop guidance centres that young people under the age of 30 can visit for any reasons they may have. In Ohjaamo centres, workers from a range of organisations (central and local government, civil society organisations and businesses) join their forces to help young people find a way forward in their life; this may involve studies, work or a more meaningful everyday life. There are already more than 70 Ohjaamo centres across Finland.

The key to Ohjaamo’s work lies in understanding young people’s situations, in recognising the needs young people may have and in offering personal support. The previous Government allocated resources for increasing Ohjaamo’s provision of low-threshold psychosocial support services. With this in mind, Ohjaamo established the Onni project, in which psychologists and social workers paired up to develop Ohjaamo’s practices. Their objective was to improve the availability of low-threshold support to help young people meet the challenges that affect their wellbeing and daily life. At the same time, better methods to monitor the effectiveness of low-threshold support were considered.

Since spring 2019, some Ohjaamo centres have been trialling the 3x10d survey which allows young people to assess their satisfaction with ten areas of their life. Now that the first 120 responses to the survey have been received, we can analyse the preliminary, very tentative findings, and they are a cause for concern. On the scale from 1 to 10, young people’s overall satisfaction with their situation is 6.5. In other words, young people are only somewhat satisfied with their life.

When we take a closer look at the survey topics, it would seem that young people are moderately satisfied with external factors; the scores they give to living conditions (7.4), family support (7.9) and number of trusted friends (7.4) are clearly above the average. However, when we examine young people’s inner strengths, the findings tell a different story. In this area, young people’s faith in the future is very fragile. Based on the survey responses, young people’s confidence has been shaken when it comes to their ability to overcome challenges (6.1), ability to cope in daily life (6.0), finances (5.2) and self-esteem (5.6).

From the earlier follow-up studies, we know that the most common reasons for visiting Ohjaamo centres are related to work, studies, health and housing. A vast majority of the young people visiting Ohjaamo fall within the age range of 20 to 24 years. At this age, young people are going through a key transition phase from education to employment, and it is only natural that they would struggle with feelings of insecurity. In addition, based on the national figures for Ohjaamo centres, more than half of the young people (57%) accessing the services are unemployed jobseekers and 25% are students, which also goes some way towards explaining the levels of insecurity. In any case, it is clear that the problem concerns many young people in widely different situations.

When it comes to providing sustainable service paths, career planning and support for daily life, the question arises whether we are doing enough to build up young people’s self-esteem and to reinforce their experience of being able to overcome challenges. It is important to recognise that even though from the outside it looks as if the support structures are in place, a young person may still require professional help. The initial outcomes seem to reinforce the view that we should be providing both joined-up services and low-threshold psychosocial support, and that we should offer a stronger presence and walk alongside young people. It makes sense to support young people’s wellbeing, resilience and self-esteem before the challenges escalate into serious mental health and life management problems. Boosting young people’s self-esteem is also essential if we are to find solutions that are sustainable in the long term.

The purpose of the Ohjaamo concept is to join up services and adapt them to the needs of individuals. This approach has made it difficult to assess the effectiveness of the services. However, we know that last year Ohjaamo centres had more than 140,000 face-to-face encounters and young people made over 70,000 visits to the group sessions. Throughout Ohjaamo’s life cycle, the average customer satisfaction rating has been above 9. This is a remarkable achievement when we consider how dented young people’s self-image appears to be. Both young people and workers have praised the Onni project for its approach of offering easily accessible, intensive and high-quality services to support young people’s wellbeing.

We now have the next steps figured out, and the new Government Programme supports the kind of low-threshold support that Ohjaamo offers to boost young people’s education and employment prospects. The question remains about ensuring the provision of low-threshold psychosocial support. Young people will need it to build up their confidence and their faith in their ability to shape a path to a future that is just right for them.

Janne Savolainen, senior specialist

Anna Toni, senior specialist

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