Partnered for results in the next structural fund period: Cohesion policy to support the wellbeing of the most vulnerable

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 24.2.2020 10.22 | Published in English on 24.2.2020 at 11.00
News item
Jussi Ahokas, Chief Economist at the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health
Jussi Ahokas, Chief Economist at the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health

The Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health (SOSTE), a national umbrella organisation for Finnish health and social services organisations, is preparing for the next structural fund period with two key themes in mind: developing health and social services and promoting inclusion and employment. The federation approaches regional development through promoting wellbeing for people in the intermediate labour market, such as those with impaired capacity for work, and for long-term unemployed people and other groups in a vulnerable position in the labour market.

“We should use the European Social Fund and, on a broader level, cohesion policy to create more opportunities for the most vulnerable groups,” says Chief Economist Jussi Ahokas from the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health.

Ahokas describes the preparations for the next structural fund period in mostly positive terms.

“The preparations have been commendably transparent and participatory. Contents and timetables of the process have been shared for information and comments, which is quite rare today.”

The regional dimension has been strong, however, which leaves only a small role for organisations. Ahokas had hoped to see deeper levels of participation.

Need for better project implementation and impact assessment

There have been positive experiences of the current programming period.

“Our member organisations have had a number of successful ESF-funded projects, and they have provided leverage for other wellbeing-oriented activities, too.”

According to Ahokas, there should be better ways to make established practice of the well-functioning models created in projects. Moreover, projects should be seen as investments that bring new resources to organisations’ regular activities. It is important to assess the long-term impacts of projects and achieve a higher level of continuity in development efforts.

“Effectiveness must be assessed on a long-term basis, because we must allow sufficient time for wellbeing impacts to manifest,” Ahokas says.

The heavy administrative burden of applying for project funding and of participating in projects poses a difficulty for many service providers and organisations in the health and social services sector. There are many feasible project ideas in the third and fourth sectors.

Ahokas hopes that project funding would be easier to manage in the future, that there would be ways to channel it more quickly to project activities, and that it would be available for grassroots activities, too.

The Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health (SOSTE) is a stakeholder member in the programme preparations. Through meetings, it has access to information and opportunities to participate in the discussions on the next structural fund period.

This news item is based on an interview with Jussi Ahokas, Chief Economist at the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health. Preparations for the EU structural fund period 2021–2027 are being made in collaboration between various stakeholders in line with the partnership principle. Other interviewees in the series of news themed “Partnered for results in the next structural fund period” include Marja-Riitta Pihlman from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Päivi Keisanen from the Regional Council of Oulu, Tiina Huotari from the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, and Mauri Yltiö from the Ministry of the Environment.

ESF funding promotes social inclusion and prevents poverty

  • ESF-funded projects have created measures to prevent poverty and promote social inclusion that aim to ensure that people who are outside working life can maintain their functional ability and their capacity for work.
  • Outcomes of these projects include better functional ability and capacity for work for the individuals involved, stronger inclusion, and fewer experiences of challenging financial situations.
  • Individuals who are in a vulnerable position in the labour market have gained access to education through the projects. Others have found employment.
  • Measures that use service customisation and client involvement and have relevance to working life have been the most successful. Different combinations of measures have been used depending on clients’ needs.

Source: MDI (2019). Final evaluation report of the ‘Sustainable Growth and Jobs’ structural funds programme