“No one in the Nordic Region should feel excluded. And so we have an obligation to ensure the best possible structures and practices in the social field for groups such as vulnerable young people,” says the chair of the Nordic Council Welfare Committee, Bente Stein Mathisen. The proposal for combating exclusion was put forward by the social democratic group at the Session of the Nordic Council in Oslo before Christmas. At its first meeting of 2019 in Reykjavik, the Nordic Council Welfare Committee has now decided to proceed with the proposal and recommends that the Nordic Council of Ministers initiates efforts to enhance models and incentives in order to promote social investment and preventative efforts in the fight against exclusion.
No one in the Nordic Region should feel excluded. And so we have an obligation to ensure the best possible structures and practices in the social field for groups such as vulnerable young people.
Several vulnerable groups, including young people
The term “exclusion” relates to those who don’t feel a part of society and who are thus at risk of being disadvantaged socially and in terms of their health. Groups that are especially vulnerable include immigrants, those with a mental illness or disability, those subjected to abuse, and young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Although all these people are each very different, they all live in a society that is not always geared to meet their needs. If we take vulnerable young people as an example; they are at much greater risk of dropping out of school, are less active in organisational activities, are more likely to have resource-poor parents, and have a smouldering distrust when it comes to their future in the society that they are to become a part of. Member of the Nordic Youth Council, Anna Falkenberg, welcomes the ambitious efforts to combat exclusion and says: “A focus on prevention and various groups of young people is important. The earlier this can be implemented, the better things will be for individual young people and society at large.”
Social investment and prevention
As its basis, the Nordic Council Welfare Committee is using the 14 recommendations for the improvement of the Nordic Region’s social sector presented in the social review, Knowledge that works in practice. Two themes in particular are central to the Nordic Council Welfare Committee’s efforts in combating exclusion: Social investment and prevention. Social investment refers to the creation of systems that provide new long-term solutions that are not immediately visible on the bottom line in the short term, and which are hard to specify for citizens. Prevention is quite simply about taking action before damage is done. Yet this is also difficult to specify, as how can you measure something accurately that hasn’t happened?
A focus on prevention and various groups of young people is important. The earlier this can be implemented, the better things will be for individual young people and society at large.
Share what works. Drop what doesn’t.
The challenges exist, however, which is why the Nordic Council wants the Nordic Council of Ministers to work to establish systems and initiatives that bring about social innovations and preventative measures that help to combat exclusion. These must be separated based on the mantra of the social review: Share what works. Drop what doesn’t. This not only benefits individuals, but also has an economic benefit for society at large. Studies from Norway, for example, show that every student who completes a programme of higher education benefits society to the tune of NOK 1 million.
A venture to achieve the global sustainable development goals
The objective of Nordic co-operation is to make the Nordic Region the most integrated in the world. These efforts will help to achieve this objective and contribute to fulfilling Agenda 2030 and the global sustainable development goals – specifically, goal 10: To reduce social inequality and make it possible for everyone – regardless of their age, gender, religion, or financial standing – to feel included in the social, economic, and political life of the Nordic countries.