New targets for helping marginalised groups

The nine goals are supposed to focus the government’s efforts for marginalised groups, but critics warn they will amount to “hot air” unless followed by action

The living conditions of marginalised groups will be judged according to nine new goals that the government wants to achieve by 2020.

Among the targets are increasing the number of vulnerable young people who complete a youth education course, getting more homeless people off the street and getting more drug users to quit.

The social affairs minister, Annette Vilhelmsen (Socialistisk Folkeparti), argues that the targets will focus the government’s ambitions to improve the lives of marginalised groups and ensure they get the help and support they need.

“It’s vital  for the government that we don’t lose sight of society’s most vulnerable,” Vilhelmsen stated in a press release. “These are children who started their lives with bad odds, and adults living on the fringe of society.”

No budget increase
Ritzau reports that the government spent 14.2 billion kroner on vulnerable children in 2012 and won’t be increasing its spending to reach the 2020 goals.

Instead the government intends to make its money work harder with a focus on achieving the goals.

The goals were criticised from a number of angles, with professor Inge Bryderup from the University of Aalborg, an expert on social care and children, arguing in Politiken newspaper that it wasn’t ambitious enough.

“I am shocked  that they are not setting the same targets for children in care as the rest of children in Denmark: that 95 percent should complete a youth education by the time they are 25,” Bryderup said, though she acknowledged that children who have been taken into social care faced greater challenges than most. The vast majority of these children have the same cognitive level as other children. They are often unfamiliar with school because they have been moved so often and because they have been bullied.”

Vilhelmsen's plan calls for 50 percent of vulnerable children to receive an education. 

No "paradigm shift"

Vilhelmsen said the government’s goals represented a “paradigm shift”, but the Konservative's social affairs spokesperson, Benedicte Kjær, said she was less than impressed.

“This is not the paradigm shift the government alleges it is,” Kjær told Berlingske newspaper. “It is a shame that they are not more ambitious when it comes to education. We know that getting an education is the best way to avoid social problems. I think a target of 50 percent is not enough. All children need an education.”

Far-left support party Enhedslisten (EL) welcomed the targets but said they are merely “hot air” if they are not followed up with action.

“Good intentions and nice words about co-operation make no difference in themselves,” EL's social affairs spokesperson, Pernille Skipper, stated in a press release. “If you want to stop young people from becoming criminals, you need to introduce counsellors in schools. Reducing homelessness means providing enough cheap housing. And to help children in social care we need more initiatives and to provide them with greater protection.”

“This all costs money but it’s money that will earn itself back if introduced in time," Skipper added. "The consequences of inaction are far more expensive for society.”

FACT BOX | 2020 social targets

  • At least 50 percent of vulnerable children and young people will complete a youth education by age 25.
  • Improve the level of reading and mathematics of vulnerable children.
  • Reduce the number of 15 to 17-year-olds who are convicted of crimes by 25 percent.
  • Reduce the number of unsuccessful social care placements by 30 percent, to a maximum four percent.
  • Reduce the number of homeless by 25 percent to no more than 4,000 individuals.
  • Reduce the number of people who return to hostels and temporary accommodation within a year of being housed in their own home, to a maximum of 20 percent.
  • Reduce the number of woman who stay at crisis centres more than once by 30 percent.
  • Increase the number of drug users who complete their rehabilitation program, or reduce their consumption of drugs because of the program, to 50 percent.
  • Reduce the number of drug-related deaths by 30 percent to a maximum of 200 people a year.

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