Child welfare social workers cannot be hired on temporary agency work for any position for which a public-service employment relationship is mandated

Publication date 6.10.2023 7.46
News item
Two children are sitting on chairs, only their feet are visible at the picture.

In December 2022, Valvira and the Regional State Administrative Agencies issued a directive to the wellbeing services counties concerning the quality of child welfare services and compliance with legislation in recruiting social workers. According to information received by Valvira, after the publication of this directive some of the wellbeing services counties have taken action to comply with it, but not all of them.

Child welfare services must be organised so that social work in child welfare can be undertaken as a long-term process to secure the nurturing of continuous, trusting client relationships between social workers and child welfare clients. Child welfare social workers exercise significant public authority, with the power to both safeguard and restrict the fundamental and human rights of individuals. Acting in the best interests of the child and maintaining confidence in the actions of the authorities is undermined if an employee is in a legal relationship not only with the wellbeing services county but also with a private enterprise in the context of their job duties and is paid fees, benefits or other compensation for those duties by that private enterprise.  

Currently valid legislation does not prohibit the hiring of temporary agency employees or the use of private recruitment enterprises in recruitment by wellbeing services counties. However, it is not allowed to recruit social workers on temporary agency work for any position involving the exercising of public authority for which a public-service employment relationship is mandated, and it is the considered opinion of Valvira that scenarios involving multiple employers as described above are a case in point.

Wellbeing services counties have a duty to ensure that the services which they are responsible for providing are of good quality and in compliance with the law. Self-monitoring by the wellbeing services counties includes risk management, which in turn contains as an essential element the minimising of the risks involved in the services provided and the impacts of those risks. High personnel turnover is a significant risk for quality, information exchange, competence assessment and orientation training in child welfare services. Social workers who are only employed for short periods are rarely able to familiarise themselves sufficiently with the circumstances of any child and their family. Consequently, they are unable to fulfil their duty to make plans and decisions consistent with the best interests of the child, with the concomitant risk of failing to provide a timely and appropriate response to the service needs of the child.

Instruction: Wellbeing services counties must ensure to comply with the quality and legislation of child protection while recruting social workers (pdf, in Finnish)

Further information: Lawyer Päivi Vuorinen, tel. 0295 209 402

Healthcare and social welfare