Children's Ombudsman denounces govt for ignoring impact of lawmaking on kids

Finland's top children's advocate has berated the government for not taking the time to assess the impact of policy changes on children, as it rushes to pass a host of new laws needed for its ambitious reform programmes. Children’s Ombudsman Tuomas Kurttila says government has failed to get input from experts and research on important issues such as child welfare.

Kurttila says many government spending cuts target the same groups. Image: Henrietta Lehtinen / Yle

Children’s Ombudsman Tuomas Kurttila has charged that government has repeatedly neglected to assess the possible impact of new legislation on children.

Kurttila said that the flurry of legal reforms required for major reform programmes such as the bid to overhaul social and health care services have not factored in potential impacts on the country's underage population.

"In government decision-making expert opinion and research on issues such as children’s welfare and their benefit are repeatedly overlooked," the ombudsman charged.

On Wednesday, the ombudsman will present government ministers with his evaluation of the state of children’s rights and welfare in Finland. The statement will be reviewed by a Children’s Advisory Board set up by the government.

"The government’s legislative work on areas such as regional reform, the reform of the social and health care system, various amendments to the Aliens Act, the so-called dismantling of norms and many individual austerity decisions have not included an assessment of the impact on children," Kurttila noted.

Austerity measures target the same groups

According to the ombudsman the government also failed to conduct an impact assessment to gauge the combined effect of legislative changes. As evidence of this, he pointed to the fact that many of government’s spending cuts have targeted the same groups.

In his statement Kurttila highlighted the plight of people in weak positions in society, such as unaccompanied children entering the country, children completely excluded from early childhood education and children from low-income families.

He concluded that recent developments are highly worrying and described the implementation of the government’s programme as weak in many respects.

Kurttila's comments come on the heels of similar accusations of sloppy bill drafting. On Sunday, Chancellor of Justice Jaakko Jonkka criticised government for not paying due attention to possible constitutional conflicts in its preparation of new legislation.