The mental resilience of children and youth has been put to the test due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine. The consequences have included disruptive behavior, marginalization, distress, and decreased sense of belonging. Anu Liljeström, Director of the Department of Education and Culture, explains that preventing the marginalization of children and youth was a key priority last year, as well as supporting their mental, physical, and social well-being, and their ability to cope with crisis.
Government grants totaling over €83 million
Government grants are one of the most significant ways to support early childhood education, educational institutions, as well as municipal youth, sports, and library services. These grants supported opportunities for hobbies, promoting reading, creating sports facilities, and developing activities. The purpose of the grants is to promote the participation and well-being of children and youth in particular.
"We distributed more than €83 million in government grants last year. Almost every municipality in mainland Finland received support," Liljeström adds.
Over 41,000 people received supplementary training
In 2022, the Regional State Administrative Agencies organized over 480 supplementary training sessions for education personnel. These sessions were attended by over 41,000 people - about 85 participants per session. "We supported the ability of municipal staff to do their work more effectively through supplementary training. We were able to respond quickly to the impact of the war in Ukraine," Liljeström says.
"We held the training sessions mainly as webinars and online courses, so participants could also attend courses outside their own area. When the COVID-19 pandemic subsided, we also held on-site events," Liljeström continues. "We also used video productions, podcasts, and social media. We paid more attention to facilitation and participant engagement during the events. The feedback we received on the training was overwhelmingly positive: the average rating was 4.2/5."
In addition, the Regional State Administrative Agencies supported municipal activities in regional sector-specific networks. "We held network events significantly more often than before," Liljeström explains.
Changes in legislation increased the need for municipal information guidance and training. One key legislative change related to the licensing of private early childhood education, which required extensive preparation work by the Regional State Administrative Agencies in the fall of 2022.