Henrik’s piece was in synchrony with the recently-announced policy of the Danish government. According to Jyllands-Posten, the Minister of Welfare is preparing a change of focus for the state welfare system.
Here’s Henrik’s translation of the J-P article:
Karen J: Now clear consequences for the youth
by Orla Borg
The Danish government is preparing a shift away from the soft line in social legislation. Misfit children and adolescents are now to experience immediate sanctions when breaking the law.
The government will now fundamentally change the principles of Danish social legislation to counter children and adolescents who damage property, harass others, burn containers, or in other ways engage in socially unacceptable behaviour.
So far, the social system through the “Service Law” has only given the misfit youth “offers” of social measures, unless the situation was dire enough to warrant a removal from home.
But now the Minister of Welfare Karen Jespersen (Venstre) is preparing a legal proposal which will focus on making demands on the misfit youth. It will extend the frames of the social legislation to make it possible to pass “social judgement” with strong sanctions against the youngsters breaking the rules. The parents may also incur economic penalties if they do not help bring their children into line.
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The intention is that several different kinds of sanctions will be available under the new law. For instance, participants in material destruction will be requested to participate in repairing the damage, there will be mandatory disciplinary programs with firm psychological methods, and the young will be picked up in their homes by social workers if they do not attend school. The sanctions are mainly intended to be used for children under the age of 15, but will also be applicable for offenders over 15 for cases that would not lead to conviction at court.
Minister of Welfare Karen Jespersen states:
“This constitutes a breakthrough in Danish social legislation. We wish to end the let-it-be approach that has been dominant for many years. We need to be insistent towards the young, the gang-like groups who ravage the residential areas, destroy property and ignore all rules of conduct. They need to learn that their acts have direct consequences. Therefore we now give all municipalities and social advisors a new toolbox of concrete reprisals which will enable them to run a tougher line. The parents need to understand that they have a responsibility to do something, and we will therefore make it possible to suspend child support payouts for those who do not live up to their obligations.”
In the municipal social departments, the plans of stronger preventive measures are welcomed.
The chairman of the Society of Social Leaders in Denmark, Ole Pass from Rødovre, states:
“We appreciate more opportunities to make demands on the misfit youth, and we are particular interested in hearing what the government proposes in case they do not live up to the demands. Our main problem is that the young offenders simply ignore the sanctions they receive. The model of punishing parents economically is one I do not have that much confidence in. Usually the young do not care about their parents getting hurt, for they are in conflict with them already.”
Among the social advisors, temporary chairman Bettina Post states:
“Initially, we welcome more preventive options towards the youth, which will prevent younger brothers from following the criminal paths of their older brothers. But the government must realize that this will be very costly to implement. If no money is attached, this will probably not work.”
The “Service law”: Offers for misfit youth
As of today, the social “Service law” has a selection of around 10 “offers” for misfits under the age of 15. In the milder end are these:
- Offers of advice to parents
- Offers of family counselling
- Offers of support from a contact person
In the “tougher” end are these:
- Voluntary removal from the home
- Forced removal from the home
The Danish government now intends to add measures between these opposites:
- New requirements of the young
- Immediate consequences when rules are broken
- A selection of new sanctions