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Friday's papers: Inequalities, terror worries, false alarms

Criticism of government social policy, a closer watch for extremism, and the changing role of emergency services are among the topics covered by Friday's Finnish newspaper press.

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Image: Eveliina Matikainen / Yle

The Kuopio-based Savon Sanomat today carries an STT news agency report on the sharp criticism of the government's social policies levelled in Parliament on Thursday by MPs from the main opposition parties.

Following the publication of a government-commissioned social and healthcare policy report on eliminating inequalities, the opposition accused the governing coalition of being unwilling to take steps to prevent growing social problems.

Both Left Alliance chair Li Andersson and Social Democratic MP Krista Kiuru, who chairs Parliament's social affairs and health committee, slammed the government for its policies.

Green Party MP Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto called the government's policy line "shameless", accusing the coalition of adjusting state finances by taking away from the lowest income members of society and focusing tax cuts on the wealthy. At the same time, she said, the government is unwilling to spend anything on the proposals aimed at reducing inequalities.

The Centre party minister for family affairs and social services, Annika Saarikko, defended the government's policies bysaying that, for example, they have already generated jobs for 80,000 people.

Missing applications

At least 3,000 people seeking help with financial problems have run into a serious snag.

Today's Aamulehti reports from Tampere that three thousand applications for social assistance filed with officials went missing this month.

Around 3,000 of the 8,000 applications filed online with the Social Insurance Institute Kela between the 11th and 13th of March showed up in the system blank.

It took several days to correct the fault, and Kela told Aamulehti that all of the applicants whose data was missing or incomplete have been contacted by phone.

Most applications for social assistance, some 64 percent, are filed electronically. Every week, the Kela receives 21,000 applications for some form of assistance.

Terror worries

Oulu's Kaleva is among the papers that today published a syndicated Lännen Media report saying that there has been a sharp rise in the number of leads passed to police by citizens worried that someone they know may have become radicalised.

Following last summer's knife attack in Turku, the number of reports to police about suspected extremism and terrorism shot up by more than 50 percent.

Last June-July, the police online crime tip service was contacted over 1,000 times by people with information they believed related to violent radicalism. Police do point out, though, that some people filed multiple reports.

The National Police Board says it is good that the threshold for reporting suspicions is low. One problem, however, is how people perceive and classify suspicious activities.

"For this reason, for example, online tips about terrorism don't reflect reality. Someone can type in a report under the terrorism heading that has nothing to do with terrorism," Chief Superintendent Timo Kilpeläinen of the National Police Board explained.

According to Kilpeläinen, defining and recognizing violent radicalism nowadays suffers from the same kind of difficulty as recognizing hate crimes.

Last year, police received nearly 30,000 online reports of various kinds of suspected criminal activity from the public. Of these, 14 percent led to police action.

An emergency or not?

The daily Helsingin Sanomat presents readers with an in-depth look at how emergency services, especially in the capital region, have increasingly found themselves dealing with calls that actually don't require profession emergency assistance.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, paramedics have become to a large degree health educators. They have found that many people lack social networks and basic home healthcare supplies. Many people feel that they only way to get help is to call emergency services.

Among the examples that the paper reports are people calling emergency services to bandage a scratch, to ask about how to treat a stomach ache, or even how to change a baby's nappies.

Teuvo Määttä, physician in charge of emergency services for the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, told the paper that the threshold for calling the emergency centre number has fallen and he attributes the growth in the need for ambulance response to an aging population, and to a lower level of traditional institutional care.

Next year, a new national call centre number is being established to supplement the emergency number's medical services. This number will provide help concerning social and non-critical health issues.

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