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An excessive workload among social workers is jeopardising the supervision of substitute care and the realisation of the rights of children outside the home

An unannounced inspection was made of the Pohjolakoti children’s home under the orders of Deputy Ombudsman Maija Sakslin on 17.0-18.4.2018. The inspection identified a number of major deficiencies in the treatment of children and the use of restrictions. The supervisory authorities, the Regional State Administrative Agency and the municipalities placing children in the Pohjolakoti home were unaware of the illegal and repressive measures used against children there.

After the inspection, the deputy ombudsman requested reports from the Pohjolakoti home, the Regional State Administrative Agency and the municipalities placing children in the home. 

The Pohjolakoti home must specify the measures it will take as a result of the inspection’s findings. In its report, Pohjolakoti has described a number of important changes in its operations, with the aim of improving the children’s treatment.

The Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland was asked for a report on how it supervises substitute care facilities within its jurisdiction, particularly the use of restrictive measures and the way in which, during inspections, the agency consults children who have been placed in the home.

The municipalities currently placing children in the home were asked to report on issues such as how they have ensured that the social worker responsible for organising and supervising the substitute care of a child has actually been able to perform their statutory duties. The municipalities were also asked to report on the number of client families that each social worker has.

In many cases, the report submitted to the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman indicates a shortage of social service resources and an unreasonable workload among social workers responsible for children's affairs. The large number of client families under the responsibility of social workers is preventing or at least hampering the supervision of substitute care places. According to the inspection findings and reports received, the legal right of children placed in care to a personal discussion with their own social workers has not been realised in every case. The right of a child in substitute care to obtain the necessary care has been seriously compromised.

The deputy ombudsman, Maija Sakslin, will make a decision on these issues, which she has investigated under her own initiative. A separate announcement will be made on the decisions.

For more information, please contact Principal Legal Adviser Tapio Räty, tel. + 358 9 432 3379.