• viranomaisten projektit ja hyvät käytänteet,
  • haasteet kadulla työtä tekevien ja/tai asuvien lasten oikeuksien edistämisessä ja suojelemisessa,
  • mekanismit, joilla kadulla työtä tekevät ja/tai asuvat lapset voivat saada neuvonta- ja raportointipalveluita ja
  • muut oleelliset tiedot ja innovatiiviset lähestymistavat.

LAUSUNTO

The duty of the Ombudsman for Children in Finland is e.g. as an independent authority to monitor the welfare of children and youth and the implementation of their rights in Finland. The Ombudsman has not so far undertaken projects aiming at promoting the rights of children working and / or living on the streets. The tasks of the Ombudsman do not cover providing legal assistance or counselling in individual cases either.

The phenomenon of children living or working on the streets is in Finland rather small in numbers. Possible cases involve mostly Roma children coming from other countries. In principle, it would be possible in some extent to use services of the Ombudsman for the Minorities in these cases. The mandate of the Ombudsman for Minorities includes also assistance and legal advice in cases where children are discriminated against.  However, in practice minors seldom contact the Ombudsman for Minorities.

It is enacted in the Child Welfare Act (417/2007) that the municipal body responsible for social services must provide support without delay if the circumstances in which the child is being brought up are endangering or failing to safeguard his / her health or development OR the child’s behavior is endangering his / her health or development. The municipality must, without delay, arrange sufficient financial support and rectify the deficiencies in living conditions or arrange for accommodation that meets the child’s need. Therefore, if the law is fully implemented, it is not possible that the local authorities would let the children live on the streets.

However, there have been deficiencies in meeting the needs of children arriving in Finland from other EU member states, for example Roma children from Eastern Europe (mainly from Romania and Bulgaria). These children usually take part in begging or collecting empty bottles on the streets (to get bottle return payments). The Child Welfare Act enacts that in emergency situations child welfare officers in the municipality where the child is staying in should investigate the child’s situation if the officer becomes aware of a child who may be in need of child welfare services.  In some municipalities it is not quite clear that these children who arrive temporarily from abroad and work on the streets are entitled to protection.

The Ombudsman for Children therefore emphasizes the importance to give more guidance by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to the municipal authorities on the interpretation of the Child Welfare Act regarding the children living and / or working on the streets. There should be a clear national policy guideline in this matter that all municipalities should implement the law equally in order to guarantee equal treatment for all children.

The Ombudsman has also on previous occasions emphasized the importance to develop child-friendly mechanisms on reporting of the violations of the rights of the child. It would important to ensure child-friendly service of the police and Emergency Response Centre.

One challenge is posed by the fact that consultation and support services for minors are not equally distributed in different parts of Finland. The so called helping lines for minors or victims of crimes are mainly upheld by non-profit organizations. Regular and stable financing of these services is not enough guaranteed by the state.

As a whole, a flaw in Finnish legislation is that it is not compulsory to arrange basic education for asylum seeking or refugee children that are not constantly living in the municipality *. The same problem concerns above mentioned children arriving temporarily from abroad and working on the streets. Law should be immediately amended in order to provide equal right and access to basic education for every child living in Finland.

Jyväskylässä 12.10.2011

Maria Kaisa Aula
Lapsiasiavaltuutettu

Jaana Tervo
Lakimies


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