In 2002 Iceland introduced a child protection act to ensure the safety of their youth as substance abuse and under-age drinking was the highest in Europe through-out the 1980s to the 1990’s. This reform included a curfew, changes in alcohol and tobacco laws and finally adding extra funding towards afterschool activities to get children off the streets.
The afterschool activities include youth groups, art projects and sporting clubs. The curfew is different depending on the age of the child and they are permitted to travel outside the curfew if attending an activity. Children found outside after curfew will be taken home and social services can be involved if necessary. The curfew’s other benefit is that families have more time together and ensure child welfare. Finally, the model works because it receives support from the cities, schools, community and parents while receiving extra funding from the government.
Iceland understands that the success must continue to the next generation, so the programme is constantly being researched while adapting the programme to fit the child’s needs at the time. Now in 2019 Iceland have the lowest youth substance abuse levels in Europe.
Could this work in Finland?
Firstly, the model could dramatically decrease substance abuse and crime either against or involving children. It has been proposed to take place in the capital region of Finland to pilot it first. But if the model should work in the capital would it be successful in other parts of the country?
If Finland was to pilot this model, the capital region would need support from parents, schools, cities and third sector funded projects and groups. To have the same success as in Iceland all participants must give the highest level of support towards the cause. Already many organisations are working with the youth to provide activities and hobbies for the evenings to prevent substance abuse and underage drinking and smoking. Some organisations offer an open space for children to just hang out with their friends and come inside when the weather is bad, while others have a variety of engaging activities.
When compared Iceland and Finland both have problems with substance abuse and other addiction related problems so ideally the model could work. But there are comparable differences in the youth and culture. Iceland have invested a lot into this model and if Finland where to try this the government and other parties would have to work together to make all activities and project accessible for all. Overall, this could be time consuming, complex and expensive.
Although there are many positives to the model, it has not been approved by everyone. Members of Finland’s youth political parties believe the culture is too different and it would not work. One barrier for the model is that parents will need to patrol the streets, and this does not suit everyone’s lifestyle.
In conclusion it will be interesting to see if Helsinki will incorporate this model in future. Almost everyone in Finland wants to stop youth substance abuse and underage drinking due to all the negative aspects that go hand in hand with it. But how would it affect the communities and would it put a strain on the welfare system? Overall, how committed are the government to invest in the model as the process is lengthy and costly?
Written by Amber Sinisalo