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Friday's papers: Benefit changes, intelligence job perks, day care at night

The final paper review before the holidays looks at Finnish pension institution Kela's biggest changes to benefit sums, the impressive prerogatives of the proposed seat of 'intelligence commissioner' and children's day care centres that also offer their services overnight.

lapsi nukkuu pehmopupu kainalossa
Some day care centres look after kids during the night, as well. Image: Yle

The year 2018 rolls around in just over a week's time and some changes to social benefit payments will come into effect, while others will still need to be ground out before being applied. Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat listed the main adjustments in store.

The most recently announced change is to unemployment benefits, with the government's so-called active model proposal being widely criticised by opposition parties as unnecessarily punitive.

"For each 65 days of benefits, a jobless person must find employment for at least 18 hours or manage to take part in a minimum five-day job-seeking endeavour," IS quotes Heini Lehikoinen, communications specialist for the national pension, Kela. "Otherwise the benefit will be cut by about 32 euros for the next 65-day period."

The repercussion will not affect unemployment benefit recipients who also receive a disability allowance or who are applying for it.

One of the changes is a reversal, as parents' income will no longer affect the size of the student benefit received by independently living 18-19-year-olds in secondary education. In other words, high school and polytechnic students who have left home can soon receive the full allotted 250.28 euros per month without their parents' paychecks getting in the way.

One more piece of education-related legislation looks to increase the amount of support that student mothers receive. The student benefit received by these university-level students – some 13,500 are eligible, IS writes – will see a support boost of 75 euros per month.

Keys to secrets in new security position

Meanwhile Tampere region daily Aamulehti writes about the privileges that are to come with Parliament's newly proposed security authority post of intelligence commissioner, in charge of maintaining the legality of security surveillance.

The holder of the title would be given "unlimited access" to the data systems and offices of the National Bureau of Investigation (Supo), Interior Minister Paula Risikko says in the AL piece.

"This would be a new governmental authority who would also be involved in outlining their own duties. We don't know what an intelligence commissioner does yet," Risikko says.

Such a commissioner would have the right to sit in on court cases ruling on issues such as internet surveillance, to follow surveillance data in real time – and even to interrupt live operations he or she deems unlawful. Citizens would be granted the right to complain to the commissioner about any suspicions of surveillance measures used against them.

The Centre Party's Tapani Tölli, who oversees the legislative work on the proposal says that the Supo-related access rights that would come with the new position would be about equal to those already enjoyed by the Attorney General and the Data Protection Ombudsman.

Day care sleepovers rise in Helsinki

Top circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat writes about a rarer but increasingly common feature of Finnish day care centres, namely overnight supervision and care for children whose parents work evening or night shifts.

A 24/7 society together with the recent freeing up of shop opening hours are making it more common for families to require municipal assistance in child care around the clock, the paper writes. Last year some 15,000 children were in either late evening, overnight or weekend care in the country, with figures slowly but steadily increasing for the past decade.

"Families whose carers work different shifts organise child care in many others ways in addition to using the services of centres," says professor of pedagogy Anna Rönkä in HS. "Parents take turns, relatives help out, private housekeepers are employed and longer family leave periods all account for part of the changes occurring."

The need for around-the-clock child care is expected to rise in growth centres such as Helsinki especially. Perheet 24/7, a research project focusing on shift-based day care, finds that Finnish child care of this type is of a very high standard, HS reports.

This was the final paper review for 2017. We'll be back on 8 January with another roundup of the day's big stories.

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