The number of low-income families with children has been rapidly rising in Finland. Poverty causes a lack of basic necessities and feelings of loneliness and exclusion. The Good Holiday Spirit collection launched this week will grant a food gift voucher to 21,000 low-income families.
The number of low-income families with children has been increasing rapidly in Finland. The main reasons include the rise of living costs and food prices, accelerated at the start of this year, as a result of which poverty now touches approximately 30,000 new children.
A total of 129,000 children and young people must live on a minimum budget every day. In families forced to use their entire income on necessary expenses, the rising costs are causing a lack of necessities: adequate and diverse food, clothes and accommodation that meets the needs of all family members.
‘The number of food aid clients of the Finnish Red Cross began to rise when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and now that prices are going up the number of people picking up food aid has increased further. The families that we encounter are highly concerned about the uncertain future, and feelings of insecurity are common. Furthermore, we see young people getting food aid for their families. This should not be happening, as we must ensure that every child has a safe childhood and adolescence,’ says Social Welfare Coordinator Maaret Alaranta from the Finnish Red Cross.
Indirect effects of poverty, such as loneliness and feelings of exclusion, are expected to impact an increasing number of families. The effects of a low income level on a child’s life may not manifest until months and years down the line, because poverty experienced during childhood will also affect a young adult’s health, studies and opportunities in finding their place in working life.
In addition to financial support, families need services
Increases made to social security have been targeted at families with children. However, long-term investments in family services are required alongside these, including early support services, mental health services and child welfare. As the lack of means becomes more prevalent, whole new families begin to use the services.
‘In families with young children, the best help is nearby and comes in a tangible form. The parents require support, which is provided based on their needs; when and where they need it. However, to some young people, the threshold for seeking help is too high, and therefore we must make the services more accessible. Mental health, in particular, can best be promoted by supporting the communities where the children and young people live,’ says Director of Helplines and Digital Services Tatjana Pajamäki from the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare.
Moreover, the basic security provided to families with children must be raised high enough so that families no longer need to seek regular social assistance or food aid. The fewer forms of support a family must resort to, the more energy the parents will have to focus on the most important things for their family, such as managing their daily affairs, promoting their children’s wellbeing and planning the future.
The Good Holiday Spirit collection may save Christmas for low-income families
Christmas is a time of worry for numerous families, because acquiring the foods and presents that make Christmas is impossible for many parents.
The aim of the Good Holiday Spirit collection is to collect €1.5 million this year and give a €70 food gift voucher to 21,000 low-income families in Finland. The collection is organised by the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare and the Finnish Red Cross in cooperation with Yle. The collection partners also include the K Group grocery shops, Lidl and the S Group grocery shops.
The Finnish Red Cross and the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare are working together with local maternity and child health clinics, social services and church social workers to identify families in need of help. As the name suggests, the gift voucher is a gift, which means it cannot be applied for.
The Good Holiday Spirit campaign will start on 17 November and continue until Christmas Eve. This marks the 26th time that the collection has been held, and over the years a total of 337,500 gift vouchers have been given to low-income families with children.
Donations can be made in several ways:
- Online at hyvajoulumieli.fi/en/
- Through MobilePay to the number 66020
- Through a bank transfer to the Good Holiday Spirit collection account: IBAN FI33 5780 4120 0801 60; Reference number 5429
- By calling the donation number 0600 16555 (€10.01 + local network charge/local call charge)
- Via SMS by texting HJM20 to 16499 (€20)