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Monday's papers: Opposition slams health and social services reform, repeat youth offenders, two World Championships, and summer cottage madness

The morning papers include a claim by two opposition leaders that a government reform of health and social services will devastate care services in the populous Uuusimaa region. Several papers report on the high rate of recidivism among young criminal offenders. Finnish teams took two gold medals in the Aesthetic Group Gymnastic (AGG) World Championships over the weekend. And, what do Finns want in a summer retreat?

A wooden rowboat at a summer cottage
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

Key figures in two opposition parties, the Social Democrats (SDP) and Swedish People's Party (SPP), say that the rosy future of a possible health and social service (see: Yle News explains: What is Sote? ) painted by the government will in fact mean a concentration of power in Helsinki and a decline in services in communities surrounding the capital.

SPP chair Anna-Maja Henriksson and SDP MP Maarit Feldt-Ranta told the daily Helsingin Sanomat that government plans will downgrade services at least the communities of Porvoo, Hanko, Sipoo, Raasepori, Loviisa and Inkoo.

Feldt-Ranta told the paper that at present, decision making on healthcare and social services takes place locally, close to the people served. The government's reform would give birth to what she described as a "democracy deficit".

Anna-Maja Henriksson took a similar view, pointing out that familiarity with local conditions is important in the provision of these services, and questioned whether or not authorities in Helsinki will be competent to make decisions affecting outlying communities and their inhabitants.

The reform has aroused widespread criticism. On Saturday, Helsingin Sanomat published an item in which the leaders of the country’s largest urban centres added their voices to the chorus of criticism.

Conservative Jan Vapaavuori, who takes over as Mayor of Helsinki in June, called it "the most damaging reform in living memory".

In her comments to the paper, published Monday, SPP chair Anna-Maja Henriksson called the reform "a huge scam" that will take money and power away from local governments.

Repeat youth offenders

Several of the morning's papers, including the newsstand tabloid Iltalehti, picked up a syndicated report by the Uutissuomalainen group that most young criminal offenders released from prison end up behind bars again.

Vanki katselee ulos kalteri-ikkunasta
Image: Yle

Off all under-21 year-old offenders who were released in 2011, 87 percent were back in prison within five years, and this figure has been on the rise.

Sasu Tyni, a researcher at the Criminal Sanctions Agency pointed out that young people are rarely given prison sentences except for very serious crimes. This indicates that many already have a long history of criminal offences and the risk they will return to crime is very high.

According to Tyni in-prison programmes aimed at reforming young offenders can have an impact, but often the target is set too high.

"Quite often there are unrealistic goals. I think that it's already quite an achievement if one or two out of ten prisoners don't go back to prison because of these programmes."

Retreat from the world, not a work camp

The summer cottage season is upon us, many people want to retreat to the countryside and get away from their busy lives for a few days or weeks.

Mökki järven rannalla.
Cottage ownership is shifting to a younger generation which has different ideas about what quality time means. Image: Arja Lento / Yle

Ilta-Sanomat writes that the continuing popularity of this lifestyle is also reflected in summer cottage sales, and it examines what some of the key sales points are.

Distance has become of increasing importance for most Finns when buying a cottage. Real estate agent Jari Enberg told the paper that the vast majority of people he deals with want a cottage that is less than an hour's drive from home, preferably only half an hour.

There are exceptions, however. Even though the Saimaa Lake district is a good three-hour drive from Helsinki, sales to capital residents have been brisk.

Properties fronting large bodies of water sell at a premium. A cottage located on a small lake may cost 80,000 euros. The going price for a similar cottage on Lake Saimaa can be 150,000.

There is also a growing demand for cottages built for year-round use that don't require constant maintenance. Real estate agents interviewed by Ilta-Sanomat pointed out that people want to enjoy their leisure time, not spend weeks in a "work camp" cleaning and repairing.

And, while summer retreats close to home are the most popular, there are still people who seek out more remote locations.

"If I have ten clients shopping for a cottage, there's always one after a spot on an island. That way they are sure they'll have no surprise quests," says Enberg.

Two golds, a silver, a bronze - where's the party?

Finnish teams were the big winners at the 18th Aesthetic Group Gymnastic World Championships that wrapped up in Helsinki on Sunday, claiming with two golds, one silver and one bronze in the games that included 57 teams from 16 countries.

Finland's team Minetit competing on Saturday. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Tampere's team Minetit won first place in the senior competition while in the junior category, Minetit Elite which comprised gymnasts from Tampere, Helsinki and Vantaa, took the gold.

Aamulehti gave extensive coverage to the event and to the local winners.

But, but what about the celebrations? It has become common practice that after a Finnish athlete or team scores a major international championship, the home city puts on an open-air party in a city square to celebrate.

Coaches of Team Minetit told Aamulehti that the companionships are a major event for Tampere and they hope that the city will take notice. Sunday evening, city events organiser Perttu Pesä was unable to tell Aamulehti if a celebration is in the works, but he did say that the city square is available.

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