I am a Green member in the City of Helsinki social services and health care committee, mother of two children from Hakaniemi, doctoral student, advisor (development policy) for MEP Heidi Hautala, Officer for International Affairs for the Finnish Greens and a vice-member of the City Council.
I’m a Green Party candidate to the Helsinki City Council (number 691). I want an environmentally friendly and equal Helsinki, with room for all!
1) Supporting Families with Children
Services for families with children have been cut and I want to reverse this trend. This is the only way to curb the rising inequality between families. Being underprivileged often starts at childhood. We need preventive services, for instance more resources should be allocated to home services for families with children as well as to speedy access to family counseling services. Day care should be accessible close to one’s home, and schools should not be allowed to become more unequal. In the City of Helsinki social services and health care committee I have achieved additional funding allocations to the Neuvola (Maternity and child health clinics) and Child Supervisor’s services, to new Family Centers being established, to additional home visits for at-risk first-time expectant mothers, as well as a for trial of Neuvola check-ups being extended to daycare centers.
Yet, much is still to be done. A child-friendly Helsinki needs:
- All services for families with children under one roof at Family Centres.
- In those maternity and child health clinics that are at risk of being closed, services should be guaranteed for at least children under the age of one.
- Quality municipal day care services: Smaller group sizes, access to day care services close to home, psychologists in early childhood education, languages, interaction with nature and different cultures. No more Government cuts!
- Investing in youth mental services: low threshold services, variety in treatments, support for the whole family, uninterrupted treatment periods
- Schools should have a necessary amount of public health professionals, psychologists and curators
- Sufficient resources for child protection services and family support
- Affordable afternoon activities for inclined 1st and 2nd grade pupils
- Free contraceptives for inclined under 25 year olds
- Practical breastfeeding support services in maternity hospitals and maternity and child health clinics
2) Curbing Inequality – health services without queues!
We need to invest in social and health services, in order to give all Helsinki residents equal and high-quality public services. Health inequalities must be narrowed. Low-threshold services prevent inequality, exclusion and poverty. People seeking help or benefits should not be sent around from one door to another, and access to services should not depend on your gender or the thickness of your wallet. This is the direction that has been taken by the Social Services and Health Care Committee, but there needs to be even more services that reach out to people in their daily lives, as well as more affordable housing.
In the Social Services and Health Care Committee I have achieved results in shortening health care center waiting times, extended opening hours, additional resources to home care services, saved residents’ houses and contact work, continued the operation of the health information hotline, and the first ever wellness center will open in Kalasatama in 2018. All of my efforts and achievements on the Committee can be found here in Finnish.
An equal and prosperous Helsinki requires:
- everyone should have access to the new wellness and health care centers, where all social and health services are integrated under the same roof. A coherent treatment path should be designed upon the first meeting, in a multi-professional way.
- New kinds of outreach services for youth and and social welfare, for example in resident’s houses with communal activities. Otherwise, the reform of the service network will not work.
- Health centers should be accessed without queues.
- Services for the most vulnerable populations need to be guaranteed in the national social and health care reform.
- Freedom of choice must not weaken access or increase costs. Health and wellbeing promotion, which remains in Helsinki after the reform, should account to tangible actions and provisions not merely words on paper.
- There needs to be a clear roadmap for increasing affordable housing and getting homelessness under control. Group-building and relaxing the car park norm.
- Feminist urban policy: all decisions should be evaluated on whether they weaken or promote the status of women or men.
- City employees should receive training on encountering sexual minorities.
- Aging with dignity: getting home care in order.
3) Green, responsible and lively Helsinki. Bring back the night metro!
There needs to be coherence in our responsibility towards the climate and nature: We need a densely built Helsinki, that also respects the pockets of nature in the urban landscape. Car dependency can be reduced by improving cycle lanes, with cross-city public transportation, brick-and-mortar stores, local services and good urban planning. Helsinki must act in a just and fair way in a global perspective. Open public space is needed for creativity, events and meet-ups of people of all ages. Urban farming, street art, lively marketplaces, car-free streets, libraries, free meeting places and resident’s houses with communal activities are all needed.
A climate friendly and communal Helsinki requires:
- Dense and walkable neighborhoods, with green areas and accessibility for all. The Hakaniemi shoreline needs, not just additional housing, but a also a park, making the shoreline a public space for all.
- Everyone should have the right to and access to forests, and parks should be maintained in a natural and organic manner. As much forest as possible should be kept intact in the Helsinki Central Park. The decision on building in Vartiosaari should be re-examined and Kivinokka should be preserved.
- Procurement should be durable, transparent, fair, child labor free and tax-haven free.
- Public transport should be efficient and affordable. The western extension of the metro should bring back night-time Metro services.
- Everyone should have the opportunity to use public transport. Easier bike transport on trains, student discount for full time students even older that 30 years, children’s tickets also for 17 year olds.
- More bike paths, tram tracks and city boulevards. Revenues from congestion charges to be used for public transportation!
- Free and easily accessed permits for street art.
- Open public spaces for cultural events, street and block parties, urban gardens and other experimental activities. The gasholders in Suvilahti need to be put to good use as cultural venues. The city belongs to the people!
- Carbon neutrality by 2030. A climate roadmap to guide action. More energy saving, green roofs, and solar panels. Wind power at the Vuosaari port area.
- More vegetarian food at the different city-run restaurants and lunch cafes.
4) Human Rights are for Everyone
At this moment in time it is important to defend the rights of all, also those from different backgrounds. In a globally responsible Helsinki there is space for everyone. A city which treats its immigrants as equal members of a community, will certainly also treat well its other residents. Different cultures and international backgrounds enrich the lives of all Helsinki residents. In the Social Services and Health Care Committee I have achieved that the paperless receive health care, emergency accommodation is arranged for all, the shelter for immigrants could continue its operations, and refugees from sexual and gender minorities receive additional support.
A receptive and open Helsinki needs:
- Smoother integration: language training for immigrants and opportunities for interaction with other city dwellers. NGOs should be heard regarding new initiatives.
- Continuing providing emergency shelter for all during cold nights
- Support for employment and entrepreneurship of immigrants.
- Internationalisation and global citizenship education in schools.
- Social and health services and advice in various languages.
- Paperless people should receive also non-emergency health care.
Read more about my election themes from the municipal elections in 2012 here.
The other cities I have lived in – Montreal, Berlin and Brussels – all have a lively urban culture, small independent shops and restaurants, affordable rental housing, an extensive public transport network and an open atmosphere. Helsinki can also be turned into a city where there’s space to breathe and be creative. There is no reason why Helsinki could not equal these other cities in this regard, and still be her unique, original, sea-breezy self.
I have also signed the children’s and youth organisation’s pact for electoral candidates (Huoneentaulu.fi).