Journal Article

Social Protection of Older People in Finland from the Eighteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries: Messages for Current Policy and Practice from an Historical Analysis

Päivi Topo

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 41, issue 5, pages 876-893
Published in print July 2011 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online July 2011 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcr097
Social Protection of Older People in Finland from the Eighteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries: Messages for Current Policy and Practice from an Historical Analysis

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The earliest steps in social protection were taken in Finland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This paper seeks to describe how social protection of the elderly has evolved in Finland, and to review the influence of historical developments on current policy. The paper traces two inter-connected themes in particular. One is the shifting levels of paternalism that show that, over the period studied, there has been a shift from strong to weak paternalism and from the duties to the rights of people in their old age. Recent developments, however, show distressing indications of leaving the most vulnerable old people to fend for themselves in a complex care system. The other traces the cycle from early ‘annual auctions’ through state provision to increased privatisation and commissioning of services. Recent statistics also show that more severe problems of health and functioning are now required before gaining access at higher charge to services of a quality that may have deteriorated. Abuse and violence are understood here as an issue of structural discrimination associated with old age, living in poverty or suffering from severe problems of health and functioning without access to necessary care and assistance. The implications for social work policy and practice in jurisdictions facing similar issues in balancing protection and personalisation are explored.

Keywords: Old age; social protection; social services; residential care; discrimination

Journal Article.  6790 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Work

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