Diversity of elderly people

- Survey on discrimination in social and health care services experienced by elderly people from minority groups

 

SUMMARY 

The purpose of this study was to examine discrimination experienced by elderly people from various minority groups when using social and health care services. It addresses the issue from two perspectives: it aims to find out to what extent instances of discrimination are reported to the authorities and to establish what types of discrimination elderly people have experienced. The study comprises three parts: an overview, an empirical part, and a commentary. The overview discusses discrimination in general terms, equality legislation and the monitoring of non-discrimination. It also presents data on discrimination available from various supervisory authorities and the challenges associated with collecting such data. The empirical part focuses on the personal experiences of discrimination encountered by elderly people from each minority group concerned. In addition, it includes insights from civil society organisations and people working in elderly care about risk factors for discrimination. Finally, the commentary part of this study presents the conclusions, discusses possible reasons behind the differences in discrimination between the groups and evaluates the functioning of the discrimination monitoring system. It also puts forward recommendations for future development.

For the purposes of the study, a total of 374 original complaint documents were reviewed — on a research permit issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health — on the premises of two regional state administrative agencies. In addition, complaints submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman for Minorities concerning the elderly and their social and health care services were cleared for examination on its premises. Analysis of complaint documents held by other supervisory authorities is based on secondary sources, such as other studies, annual reports and statistics from the supervisory authorities themselves, and case descriptions available on the Internet. The data presented in the empirical part were gathered by interviewing elderly people, their relatives, and specialists in the field. Alongside the interviews, the narrative method was used to map people’s experiences. The data collection phase was widely publicised by civil society organisations, on the Internet, at discussion forums and via newspaper advertisements. A total of 144 elderly people volunteered for the interviews, which were conducted both individually and in groups. In addition, 47 interviewees worked in elderly care or represented civil society organisations. They talked about the experiences of their customers and gave accounts of a number of discrimination cases. Elderly people and the relatives of elderly people wrote six narratives.

The results indicate that identifying cases of multiple discrimination on the basis of official data is very difficult. As far as social and health care services are concerned, only complaints of ethnic discrimination may be filed with the Ombudsman for Minorities and the National Discrimination Tribunal. In other cases, complaints need to be addressed to the regional administrative authorities (administrative complaint), and discrimination is not highlighted as a particular issue in these complaints. The regional state administrative agencies, for example, have no electronic register for recording cases systematically. This means that each case must be studied manually in the archives of the agencies, after a lengthy research permit application process. In addition, no public authority systematically records the ages of persons filing complaints, so sampling on the basis of age is not possible, either. Whether a person belongs to a minority is noted only if the service subject to complaint is directed at a particular minority, such as people with disabilities. The documents and secondary sources of information studied show that elderly people from minority groups — like elderly people in general — rarely complain about discrimination they have faced. Very few elderly people have, for example, filed complaints with the Ombudsman for Minorities. Often, it is difficult to distinguish cases of malpractice, poor service and lack of necessary skills from actual discrimination.

Despite this, the empirical data collected for the purposes of this study reveal that a large number of elderly people have experienced discrimination in social and health care services. Rather than being direct or manifesting itself as poor treatment, the discrimination experienced is often indirect or structural: elderly people from minority groups are not considered in the provision of services, and insufficient attention is paid to the fact that customers may have special needs when using services and obtaining information. Many information, interpretation and IT services were considered inaccessible. Elderly people do not, for example, always receive information or it reaches them in a form that is not easy to understand — a particular problem for language minorities, people with sensory disabilities and people with intellectual disabilities. A large number of minority groups also highlighted the fact that their cultural backgrounds are not always taken into consideration. The Saami (Finland’s indigenous people), Roma, and Muslim immigrants, for example, have faced this problem in service housing and when using home and health care services. In general, diversity and the special characteristics of minorities, including people with disabilities and sexual and gender minorities, are not given sufficient attention. Services have been designed for the average middle-aged person from the majority population.

Link to the study (in Finnish): http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-491-965-4

DISCRIMINATION IN EDUCATION

With special focus on experiences of the realisation of equality in study guidance provided to young people belong to different minority groups

 

SUMMARY

This study was a part of discrimination monitoring system, which the Ministry of the Interior coordinated until 31.12.2014 and Ministry of Justice from 1.1.2015 onwards.

The aim has been to provide an analysis of the occurrence of discrimination and measures furthering equality in education, as well as an empirical section which deals, in particular, with the realisation of equality in study guidance provided to young people belong to minority groups.

The commission covers basic education (focus on secondary school, grades 7 to 9), vocational upper secondary education and training and general upper secondary education. According to the commission, various minority groups consist of foreign citizens and persons of foreign origin, persons whose native language is neither Finnish nor Swedish, religious minorities, disabled persons, Romanies, Sami people and sexual and gender minorities. The material for the study is based on earlier studies and reports, on data compiled from legality supervisors and administrative courts, on a national survey (N 414) targeted at teachers, pupil counsellors, study counsellors, on interviews of experts and requests for information (N 40) and on interviews of the young people belonging to various minority groups (N 20). Study guidance has been analysed as a process lasting for the duration of the study path, which is realised in the wider school community. The analysis takes into account realisation of equality in student selection, in pupil counselling ad study guidance in provided by schools and educational institutions, assessments and learning environments, including familiarisation with working life in comprehensive schools and on-the-job learning in vocational education and training. Realisation of equality has also been analysed separately in the general atmosphere and in leadership and management.

The focus of the analysis begins in secondary school, but guidance of the paths of young people begins in the manner by which the municipality implements the principle of the neighbourhood school with respect to disabled children. With respect to cases of legal processes and supervisors of legality relevant to the theme in the material the majority involved either incidents concerning the school place of a child who is disabled or who requires considerable special support. The ability and desire fo schools and educational institutions to accept disabled young people emerged also in the interviews of young persons. Other obstacles to equality independent of the requirements of teaching staff were accessibility issues. This may limit possibilities to study, especially in upper secondary vocational education and training.

Insufficient resources for providing guidance supporting personal and individual strengths can be seen as a factor preventing equality in guidance in schools and educational institutions, There is room for development in taking the special needs of minority groups into account in guidance and counselling but, based on the material, special attention should be directed to utilising more generally teaching and a wide range of teaching and assessment methods. A cause for concern that emerged in the material regarding teachers and study counsellors involved not only the language problems of immigrants, in particular, but also the impact on assessment. Know-how and resources in providing special support are distributed unevenly, which affects the teaching and support received by young people to some extent in all forms of education. Competence in this area was required in upper secondary schools especially. Co-operation was desired between upper secondary schools and basic education, although a great deal also remains to be developed in upper secondary vocational education as well. One clear area needing improvement is employer co-operation. On the basis of the survey, discrimination in conjunction with familiarisation with working life in basic education and in on-the-job training in upper secondary education and training was fairly widespread. Employers have refused to accept, in particular, young people of immigrant origin and Romanies, but discrimination has also affected disabled young people, for whom challenges increase at the stage of seeking employment.

On the basis of the material, a clear area requiring development is the climate in schools and educational institutions, which may constitute a obstacle to the realisation of equality. The attitudes and prejudices of staff were also viewed as contributing to failure in providing equal support to student learning. Attitudes may manifest themselves as devaluing, stricter or more lenient treatment, which in any case places the individuals concerned in an unequal position. This affects Romanies and immigrants in particular. Discrimination is manifested, as seen by staff, in the mutual relations of the students to a considerable extent. This can be considered expected, but if methods of intervening and supporting an atmosphere of equality are not supported, potential bullying can have wide consequences. On the basis of the material, the respondents can be divided roughly into to three groups. One group is aware of equality themes; the schools and educational institutions ensure that equality is implemented and the respondents are fairly satisfied. The respondents in the second group have observed discrimination and have expressed their concern about equality. The third and smallest group are not aware of equality themes; the subject is viewed as too narrow or the respondent is prejudiced, in other words has revealed his or her own anti-equality or (hidden) racist thoughts. In practice, different profiles can vary with respect to different themes, and therefore education and equality planning in respect of discrimination should concern the entire school community and the participation of young people should be ensured. Even if it was realised that equality issues are important, the issues was not addressed sufficiently, according to the respondents, nor were notification or consequence channels regarding discrimination always recognised. The respondents considered that staff training in equality themes to be inadequate and more training was desired.

Equality planning will become compulsory at the beginning of 2015 (after a transition period)in comprehensive schools and in second degree education. In addition, on the basis of the results, equality themes should be included as part of identification of competence needs and the continuing education of counsellors, teachers and other professional groups. More attention should be paid to the readiness and competence of teachers to realise individual and wide-ranging teaching arrangements and teaching and assessment methods for different learners. The competence of staff should also be ensured through continuing education. Sufficient resources for adequate personal guidance and provision of a comprehensive picture of different occupations and options should be allocated. Particular attention should be given to supporting young people at risk of discrimination in the working life community, and this community should prepare employers to guide and encounter different types of learners. In addition, teacher and study guidance training should ensure that the equality issues of various minority groups, too, should be taken into account as part of the curriculum.

 

Link to the study (in Finnish): http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-259-447-1

 

"Fighting can be draining for a small human being"

Study on accessibility and effectiveness of legal redress mechanisms

 

SUMMARY

This report comprises of a general part, an empirical part, and a commentary part. The general part provides background for the concept of access to justice and summarises recent discussion and developments on the issue both internationally and in Finland. Furthermore, statistical data on access to justice in discrimination cases is provided, as well as information on research that is available about the incidence of discrimination in Finland.

The purpose of the empirical part is to provide a general picture of the use of different means of legal and other redress mechanisms in discrimination cases. This part is based on interviews with victims of discrimination. The interviews provide data on possible obstacles in accessing justice faced by persons who are vulnerable to discrimination. A further purpose of the interviews was to collect experiences on the use of redress mechanisms.

The data from the empirical part is analysed in the commentary part. The analysis focuses on factors that make victims of discrimination resort to using a redress mechanism, and their expectations about the redress process. Furthermore, the commentary part provides recommendations on developing access to justice with the victim’s rights as a starting point.

39 victims of discrimination were interviewed for this research project. 36 out of the 39 interviewees had used some redress mechanism in a discrimination case, and the remaining three had considered using a redress mechanism. In addition to victims of discrimination, interviews were con-ducted with representatives of the Office of the Ombudsman for Equality, the Office of the Ombudsman for Minorities, and several occupational safety and health officers at Regional State Administrative Agencies. These public officials were interviewed about their views of the weaknesses and strengths of their operation, and about possible obstacles in accessing justice from the victim’s point of view. Furthermore, representatives of Seta ry (LGBTI Rights Organisation in Finland) and Allianssi ry (Finnish Youth Cooperation organisation) were interviewed by e-mail about possible underreporting of discrimination cases.

It had not been easy for the interviewees to find the right redress mechanisms. Most interviewees had sought advice from some other party than a public authority in order to find the right authority to turn to. Many interviewees felt like they had been bounced from one authority to the next, which in their opinion had negatively affected the process and its outcome. Most interviewees consider that discrimination is a big and serious issue. A large portion of the interviewees had suffered mental damage caused by discrimination, varying from annoyance and grief to fear and sleeping disorders. Approximately half of the interviewees felt they needed mental support, and a portion of them had already received support from different sources.

As expected, it was difficult for the interviewees to assess the duration of their redress processes. There is a variety of redress mechanisms used by the interviewees, and the nature of these pro-cesses varies greatly. Thus it is not viable to compare the durations of the processes. The interviewees did however consider the processes lengthy in general, and almost half of the interviewees considered this an obstacle or a challenge in accessing justice.

Only seven interviewees felt that the outcome of their redress process was sufficient. The interviewees who did not think that the outcome was sufficient thought that the consequences should have been more severe, or that the authorities should have the kind of tools in their use that would ensure that the opposing party would change their behaviour. The interviewees were not satisfied with the outcome of their own process, nor did they feel that justice had been done. However, they did consider the outcome significant enough to the extent that they were prepared to file a new complaint.

According to the interviews, the main obstacles and challenges in accessing justice are the mental stress caused by the processes, the long duration of the processes, and the operation of public authorities (such as bouncing clients from one authority to another). Furthermore, some interviewees were not sure what the consequences of their complaint had been, and some interviewees did not feel that the consequences of their complaint were sufficient. Many interviewees would have needed additional information about the proceedings of the process at its different stages. Additional obstacles and challenges mentioned by the interviewees were the burdensomeness of the process, lack of information about redress mechanisms, actual costs or dread of costs, and a lawyer’s lack of expertise.

 

Link to the study (in Finnish): http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-491-847-3

DISCRIMINATION IN EDUCATION AND LEISURE TIME:

- with special focus on discrimination experienced by young people belonging to sexual and gender minorities who study at the upper secondary education 

 

SUMMARY

This report examines discrimination in the domains of schooling and leisure time activities in 2010. The report includes two sections: a general overview of the prevalence of discrimination as it appears in statistics and research as well as unique empirical research that brings new information to light. This latter section deals with the discrimination that young people who belong to sexual and gender minorities have experienced at institutions of upper secondary education. The report is based on the following data sources: official statistics and accounts, previous studies, a questionnaire administered to young people belonging to sexual and gender minorities (n=636), interviews with some of these young people (n=5) and personal stories (n=4).

The results indicate that, while discrimination at school and during extracurricular activities rarely appears in official statistics and the decisions handed down by officials, studies indicate that people who belong to minority groups have ample experiences with discrimination. Presumably this discrepancy indicates a weak correspondence between the available safeguards against discrimination and their capacity to meet the needs of those who experience discrimination. There is a need for lighter, lower-threshold anti-discrimination safeguards that would facilitate taking matters further and ensuring that those who are discriminated against are heard.

Approximately 36% of those young people who responded to the questionnaire have at some point in their school life been the target of bullying due to their belonging to a sexual or gender minority. The situation was worst among representatives of gender minorities. Those doing the bullying are generally other students, but similar treatment or tacit approval of the bullying was also experienced at the hands of school staff. What the respondents experienced as most difficult was the near-absolute ignoring of sexual and gender minorities in teaching, teaching material, and school practices.

The results indicate that it is essential to establish school-specific non-discrimination and equality plans that apply to all levels of education. The drawing up and and quality of these plans needs to be monitored, and the plans would need to clearly state the equal rights of all minority groups as well as the actions through which non-discrimination would be ensured at the school. Current syllabi and course material require renewal in a way that would make minority groups visible; individual and societal diversity should be a basic premise of instruction. Sexual orientation and gender diversity should also be specifically mentioned. Similarly, it is necessary to add information on various minority groups and their equal rights to the basic and continuing education offered to school staff and to those professions who work with youth during extracurricular activities.

 

Link to the study (in Finnish): http://URN:ISBN:978-952-491-552-6