Published by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
New action plan provides means to prevent violence against children

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 26.11.2019 7.30
Press release 147/2019

Non-Violent Childhoods, the new action plan for the prevention of violence against children, contains 93 measures for preventing violence against 0–17-year old children and youth. It will be implemented during 2020–2025.

The plan covers the prevention of physical and mental violence, sexual violence and online harassment in different growth and operating environments. The action plan is a manual for specialists and students working among children and youth in the social and healthcare services, the police, the education and youth services, the judicial system and organisations. 

The measures listed in the plan are based on research results and needs that have arisen in the specialists’ work. The manual contains, among other things, checklists and practical measures to prevent and reduce violence.

Children subjected to violence need better coordinated and better timed support than is currently provided. Thus, the plan especially focuses on factors protecting from violence and detecting threats early. Sufficient and suitable support is very important for enabling a child or a youth to survive hard experiences. The development of multidisciplinary co-operation and training are essential means to prevent the harms caused by violence.

According to research results, the risk of violence against children increases when parents divorce or when parents are badly stressed. Risk situations should be detected in time, help should be provided and, where necessary, action should be taken in such situations and guidance towards help be given.

Violence disturbs and damages a child’s development and induces fear and mistrust towards people and the society. According to research results, adverse childhood experiences, such as violence, have an association with morbidity and repetition of violence in adulthood. At its worst, violence may even lead to death. Besides human suffering, violence causes costs as the number of mental health disorders, high-risk behaviour and social exclusion increases.

Key points taken from the Non-Violent Childhoods Action Plan

  • People working among children and families are to bring up a child’s right to a safe growth environment and the risks of violence.
  • Means are developed by which parents’ own adverse childhood experiences are better recognised and, through that, violence is prevented.
  • A comprehensive cooperation model, based on the Barnabus quality standards, is to be created for Finland, which ensures assistance, support and treatment for all children and youth who are suspected of being subjected to abuse or sexual violence.
  • It is ensured that the threat and experiences of violence, harassment or bullying are brought up in all customer meetings of the pupil welfare services.
  • In the prevention of violence, children or youth in especially vulnerable positions are particularly taken into account. Those include, for example, disabled or handicapped, ethnic or language minorities, children and youth in substitute care outside home as well as sexual and gender minorities.
  • Specialists’ preparedness to identify and interfere in special issues, such as violence relating to honour and violent extremism, must be improved.
  • Training relating to sexual violence and its prevention is to be added.
  • Children and youth are to be clearly informed of where they can tell about sexual harassment, grooming or other violence, and where to get help.

The prevention of violence requires multidisciplinary cooperation between various specialists. Therefore, almost 80 specialists from different organisations were involved in the preparation of the action plan and statements were widely requested from different parties. A summary and a version in English will also be published. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has appointed a steering group to follow up the implementation of the plan.

The National Action Plan for Safety Promotion among Children and Youth consists of two action plans, of which the first concerns the prevention of accidents and suicides (2018).

More information

Ulla Korpilahti, Development Manager, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, tel. +358 29 524 8668, [email protected]
Taina Laajasalo, Chief Specialist, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, tel. +358 29 524 7777, [email protected]
Pirjo Lillsunde, Ministerial Adviser, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 29 516 3177, [email protected]