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Long-term unemployed aid the elderly in Vaasa

The city of Vaasa in western Finland has utilised its unemployed residents in combating loneliness and seclusion among the elderly. Last year 15 unemployed people worked as aides to pensioners, with 30 expected this year. Those involved say the two-year trial has had very positive results.

Martti Turunen selviää arjestaan vanhustyön avustajan avulla.
Image: Mirva Korpela / Yle

The western Finnish city of Vaasa is running a trial program to get long-term unemployed residents to visit and care for pensioners living in the city. In 2014 about 250 senior citizens received home care from unemployed aides.

The two-year pilot has been a success, with handicapped pensioners like ex-sailor Martti Turunen being able to get out of the house and take care of chores.

”I couldn’t get by without help and I can’t get around,” Turunen says. “All this help has been invaluable.”

The pilot program is continuing and being developed this year. Vaasa will be hiring and orientating 30 new long-term unemployed city residents to provide care and attention to the elderly. Wages and expenses come to about 330,000 euros.

”The Vaasa city employment fund is shelling out for the whole project,” home care director Leif Holmlund says. “We’re giving people jobs to do while saving on Kela fines.” These so-called fines refer to labour market subsidies, which municipalities pay the Social Insurance Insitution (Kela), which then pays them forward to the unemployed.

Win-win situation

Without Vaasa’s elder care system, the city would have to return labour market subsidy payments to Kela. Big city rebates run into the millions or dozens of millions of euros. The “Vaasa model”, however, has even provided some long-term unemployed with new beginnings.

”Last year, more than half of the 15 who participated continued into adult education, or even applied for work in the care sector,” Holmlund says.

In addition to helping pensioners living at home, the city of Vaasa is planning to utilise the unemployed workforce in a sheltered housing facility to the tune of 50 new aides. Their tasks would involve helping the residents of the centre with their daily business.

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