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Title: Ex-pat community on Spain’s Costa del Sol to receive long-awaited Finnish social worker in the autumn With growing Finnish community, need for help with various issues has increased
Author: Fraser Trevor
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Ex-pat community on Spain’s Costa del Sol to receive long-awaited Finnish social worker in the autumn With growing Finnish community, need f...

Ex-pat community on Spain’s Costa del Sol to receive long-awaited Finnish social worker in the autumn
With growing Finnish community, need for help with various issues has increased

A long-held wish of the permanent Finnish residents of Spain’s Costa del Sol region is about to come true: the area will receive its own Finnish social worker, even if this will only be on a part-time basis, on a one-year contract in the first instance.
     
The social problems within the Finnish colony have increased with the growth of the community. Currently there are a small town’s worth of ex-pat Finns living in the region, more than 20,000 in all.
      The hiring of the social worker was announced by Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party) and Minister of Social Services Paula Risikko (Nat. Coalition Party) at the beginning of March.
      “Of course you hear all kinds of stories here. It is clear that a social worker is needed”, says Susanna Hannikka, while walking her oldest child to the gate of the Finnish School in Fuengirola on Costa del Sol.
      Customarily such stories include accounts related to alcoholism, lonely elderly persons, and individuals with long-term illnesses who need help.
      In the last ten years, families with children have discovered Fuengirola, and they have also brought some quite new problems in their wake.
      “In the end the need for a social worker may well focus on these child protection cases”, says Timo Sainio, the vicar of the Finnish Lutheran Parish on the Costa del Sol.
     
The spectrum of the extreme cases requiring taking children into protective care on the Costa del Sol is starting to look as colourful as it is back in Finland.
      There are families who moved into the area with their last savings and now do not have enough money to feed the children, let alone pay their school fees.
      There are also parents on leave of absence whose heads get stuck in party-animal mode. Eventually the family’s preteen child may be the one running things at home.
      Sometimes there are school-age children who fail to complete their compulsory education. There are also stories of 15-year-old teenage girls’ liquor-fuelled evenings with older men.
      Juha Helvelahti, the headmaster of the area’s Finnish school, explains that the school normally contacts the Finnish authorities with regard to child protection cases a couple times a year.
      Next year the school’s student population will exceed the 300 mark.
      The filing of a child protection case has primarily been used as a preventive measure. In the space of the last ten years, there has been only one transfer of guardianship case.
      According to Helvelahti, in most cases the issues on the Costa del Sol are the same as in Finland.
      The problem is that even though there are ten Finnish hairdressing salons, there are doctors, car dealerships, and even a Finnish-run protection society for homeless dogs in Fuengirola, there are no social services.
      The social issues have therefore accumulated primarily on the shoulders of the Finnish congregation and the Finnish school.

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