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Swedes "increasingly dependent" upon welfare

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13:16 CET+01:00
Social welfare costs are on the rise for the first time since 1997 according to a report released by the National Board for Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) on Wednesday.

Leif Klingensjö from the organization representing Sweden's local authorities and counties told Swedish Radio what had caused the 5% rise.

"This is about funding to aid troubled children, substance abusers and people needing help to make financial ends meet," he said.

But he added that the costs vary significantly between different local authorities.

"Above all this is about the structural difference differences among local authorities, unemployment and age distribution in the local populations. The structural factors are the most important."

The report also acknowledged that the government has fallen significantly short of its goal of halving the number of emergency welfare recipients. The number was only decreased by a quarter.

"Unemployment is climbing and many of the unemployed or on sick leave do not qualify for usual benefits," explained Inger Widén Cederberg, a department head at the welfare board.

"There are many young people who need assistance."

Ms Cederberg told Swedish Radio that she is worried that other social assistance programmes will suffer in order to cover the increased costs.

"We fear that the additional costs will be financed by the 26 billion kronor allocated to individual and family support," she said.

Cederberg is also concerned that local authorities will opt for short-sighted cost savings to stay within their insufficient budgets - a move which, in the long run, she said would prove more costly. One program she intimated likely to get the axe is funding for early detection and intervention for needy families.

30% of emergency welfare recipients collected benefits for ten months or longer despite the fact that the benefits are intended to be temporary support.

A researcher at the welfare board, Per-Svante Landelius, told Dagens Nyheter that the two groups who find it toughest to enter the job market after an extended dependency on social welfare are young adults and those with non-Swedish ethnicities. These factors contribute to a vicious circle.

But not all the news was grim. The report demonstrated that the local authorities reduced spending for substance abuse related care despite the number of drug addicts and alcoholics rising dramatically. Efforts to curb 'active' substance abuse have apparently resulted in long term financial gains.

However, the investments in such programs - particularly regarding those aimed at drug addicts, children and teens - vary regionally, .

"We make sure that the local authorities adjust spending [on the different groups] depending on the competence available on staff," said Inger Widén Cederberg.

The welfare board's report emphasised that it is too early to tell if the increase in costs is part of a new trend.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, SR, Socialstyrelesen

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