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The Social Services Act (SoL)

The fundamental principle underlying the Swedish social services legislation is that measures should be implemented on the basis of consent and that they should proceed from the needs of the individual. This is also the case for social services measures that are initiated in response to offending. Although it is possible to implement coercive measures within the framework of social services, the vast majority of measures employed in relation to young offenders are based on the voluntary participation of the children/youths concerned as well as their legal guardians. Such measures are implemented on the basis of the Social Services Act (Lag 2001:453-SoL) and relate to both youth offenders and young people with other types of social problems. Structured measures[1] of this kind are implemented to almost 56,000 children and youth in Sweden every year. Of these, 55 % are boys. The majority of these measures are implemented without the youths being institutionalised. Instead, the youths participate in measures arranged by the social services while living at home. The most common forms employed (approximately two-thirds of the total) involve the appointment of a contact person or contact family. The remaining non-institutional measures commonly involve participation in some form of programme focused on the youths’ specific problems, usually with some kind of CBT (cognitive-based therapy?) focus (Socialstyrelsen 2013).

Over the course of 2013, approximately 26,000 Swedish children and youth were placed outside of the family home in accordance with the Social Services Act. These placements can be short, lasting only a few days, but children can sometimes be placed in this way for a number of years. The most common form of placement involves living with a foster family. There are also placements in residential care institutions known as HVB homes. In very rare cases, children can also be placed in special approved homes on a voluntary basis. The number of voluntary placements has increased substantially (by almost 70 %>) over the past 7 years. However, this is not due to an increase in the number of placements involving young offenders. The increase is instead due to the fact that many unaccompanied child refugees who lack adequate supervision are placed on the basis of the Social Services Act, commonly in the above-mentioned HVB homes (Socialstyrelsen 2013).

  • [1] Measures in the form of temporary contacts between the social services and young people who areeither suspected of offences or have other types of problems, and their families, are not included inthe figures presented here. Contacts of this kind are much more common, but are only registeredas and when a decision is taken to implement more structured measures following a social servicesinvestigation.
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