Our Finnish member Helsingin Diakonissalaitos (Helsinki Deaconess Institute) has developed innovative social services for excluded young people, aged 12-29, since 2010. The service model is called Vamos and it is one of the most comprehensive and effective services targeted for youth in Finland.
Since the very beginning, Vamos services have been funded by national and EU institutions, among which the most important are the European Social Fund, the Finland’s Slot Machine Association, the City of Helsinki, Regional State Administrative Agency, and the Ministry of Education. Helsinki Deaconess Institute pays co-funding up to 25 % of the total budget.
The target group includes mostly school dropouts and most of them had fallen out of the existing services. Some of them had not even found a service they could benefit from. The aim of Vamos is to increase well-being of those youth whose typical challenges are loneliness and solitude, mental health problems, substance addiction, homelessness, feeling of being left out, lack of life control and skills in everyday life, family problems, economical problems, criminal background, lack of work experience and education, incompleteness of self-esteem and self-knowledge, somatic problems and school bullying.
Today, Vamos has over 50 employees in five different Vamos centers around Finland. Every year over 1000 young people practice their life management skills in groups and receive strong individual support and personal coaching aiming towards work or education. Within a year, 65% of the youth are attached to education, employment or to activities that lead to either. The Vamos working method has been modelled and proved cost-effective (Alanen & Kotkavuori 2014; Alanen & Kainulainen & Saari 2014).
Vamos has used institutional fundraising as a tool for developing new services or for reacting to social challenges. The enlargement of the target group from Finnish youth to immigrant youth is a case in point.
Many immigrant youths face the same challenges as indigenous youth, but in addition, a multiple discrimination due to their ethnicity, language, or culture. Thus, they are at even higher risks of exclusion than indigenous youth. Last year the number of asylum seekers in Finland peaked from about 3600 in 2014 to 32 400 in 2015, resulting in an arrival of heterogeneous group of youth from the range of countries. These youths may have gone through traumata and separation, which makes them more fragile than any other youth group in Finland.
Vamos would like to provide services to all youth in need, instead of developing special services for special groups. However, it first needs to increase its knowledge, skills and experience with the new youth groups. Thanks to institutional funding, Vamos has been able to apply and test its “regular” services to new target groups in projects. In 2015, it started its first-ever youth project focusing on youth with multicultural background. The three-year project is funded by the European Social Fund and it aims to reach 720 youth with immigrant background in order to strengthen their social involvement. Later this year, a brand new Vamos project for young asylum seekers will be started. The two-year project will be funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). The aim of the project is to activate at least 140 young asylum seekers while they are waiting for a decision. Eventually, there will be a mainstreamed Vamos youth work model that encourages all youth to dream and to truly try to achieve their goals in their lives.
Find out more about the project here (FI-EN)