“We need more and better dialogue with the end-users, especially vulnerable people of all ages, who need help from the welfare system. Active user involvement is important as a way of creating equal opportunities for all,” Ásmundur Einar Daðason, the Icelandic Minister of Social Affairs and Children, said after the annual meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Health and Social Affairs, which was held in Reykjavik. The ministers agreed that the political focus going forward should be on sharing knowledge and experiences of developing tools that promote user involvement.
Active user involvement is important as a way of creating equal opportunities for all.
Knowledge that works in practice
Former Icelandic social minister Árni Páll Árnason presented his report “Knowledge that works in practice” to the meeting. Commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers and based on over 200 interviews, the report presents 14 important proposals for better Nordic co-operation on social services, including user involvement. “The rationale is that social care can be improved by introducing new services that are based on end-users needs and will make an impact,” he says.
Official agencies need to understand children and young people better
The ministers also agreed on the importance of official agencies and other stakeholders engaging in dialogue with vulnerable groups of all ages. They discussed the children and young people’s perspective in some depth. The programme for the 2019 Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers has a strong focus on children and young people on all political themes, including social and health care. The Icelandic Minister of Health, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, pointed out that misuse social media can have negative psychological and health consequences for young people and that official bodies must listen to the young people themselves to improve their understanding of the situation: “Children and young people lead complicated lives these days. Unfortunately, many of them suffer from poor mental health. If we want to help them, we need to listen and understand their problems,” she said.
The Nordic Council of Ministers for Health and Social Affairs in Reykjavik.
Working with voluntary organisations
“The report – Knowledge that works in practice – suggests closer co-operation between official bodies and voluntary organisations for several reasons. One obvious reason is that voluntary organisations have experience of user involvement they can pass on,” Árnason points out.
Real benefits for the individual
The Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Paula Lehtomäki, welcomes the proposed focus on the user perspective in services for young people. “We need to intervene before the damage is done. It is easier for agencies to do so if they engage in close dialogue with the young people concerned and focus on early prevention,” she says.
We need to intervene before the damage is done. It is easier for agencies to do so if they engage in close dialogue with the young people concerned and focus on early prevention,” she says.