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Espoo launches trial immigrant counseling service

Espoo launches trial immigrant counseling service

It is meant to speed up and improve integration of new arrivals in the city

The Finnish City of Espoo has launched a new counseling service for immigrants. This is an experiment that will last until the end of August 2021. The Immigrant Advice Center was scheduled to physically open in December at the Iso Omena service market, but due to the corona epidemic, the service was launched remotely, only by telephone.

Employees can be met on-site at the Service Market as soon as the corona situation eases up and customer service is safe again.

The perfect solution for problems of integration

According to city officials about 19 per cent of Espoo residents speak something other than Finnish or Swedish as their mother tongue. Therefore, authorities see the immigrant counseling service as essential for the effective integration into Finnish society.

The success of the integration and employment of immigrants is more important year by year for the City of Espoo, as the number of immigrants and their population share are growing rapidly. Fifteen years from now, more than a third of Espoo's working-age population is projected to be foreign-speaking. The aim of the Immigrant Counseling Service is to provide immigrants with a so-called one-stop service.

“When multiple things can be promoted with a single phone call or visit, it saves time for both the customer and the city’s employees. At the same time, we familiarize our own staff extensively with the city's service book. The idea is very similar to the service markets in Espoo, and that is why the service fits well in the service market in Iso Omena,” explained project manager Satu Venhola.

The service is at least initially limited to 31 August 2021. It is mostly funded by project funding from the Ministry of Employment and the Economy (TEM) for the development of guidance and counseling services for immigrants. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy has granted funding to a total of 21 municipalities or associations of municipalities.

“In Espoo, our goal is to develop the services of immigrants at the same time as all our transaction services. We don't want to create our own service path for a part of the population - that's why the project works in the city's transaction services and physically in the Iso Omena service market, where multi-professional cooperation is already commonplace,” continued Venhola.

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