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Published: 14 Sep, 2020

Affiliate receives close to 1 million in research grants from Forte

PROFILE Project leader Annika Nordström is an affiliate researcher at Arcum, head of Welfare Research and Development Unit at Region Västerbotten and a senior lecturer in public health at Umeå University, and she and her colleagues Elisabet Höög and Jan Hjelte have received 970,000 kr for a planning project with the title 'Cross-border skills provision for a knowledge-driven social service within small municipalities in sparsely populated rural areas' in Västerbotten.

Text: Anngelica Kristoferqvist

There are many sparsely populated areas in the Arctic, and Sweden is no exception. Due to the population density and the size of the municipalities here, there are special challenges and conditions. The social services is the municipal administration that, among other things, must offer care and nursing, support for addicts and also individual and family care (IFO) in a way that corresponds up to the law, and the needs of the population. A challenge for the social services in small municipalities in sparsely populated areas is to ensure that they have access to employees with the right skills.

Forte is a state research council that funds scientific research for human health, working life and welfare, and they also identify areas where more research is needed. In their board decision for Applied Welfare Research 2020, they gave almost 1 million to the planning project Cross-border skills provision for a knowledge-driven social service within small municipalities in sparsely populated rural areas.

With Forte's planning grant, Annika and her colleagues can begin planning the research on how knowledge management takes place today and what conditions exist for maintaining cutting-edge competence. How would e.g. a cooperation across municipal boundaries, for both the social services, but also the residents, be able to function? Eight inland municipalities have been selected for the project; Lycksele, Norsjö, Malå, Storuman, Sorsele, Vilhelmina, Åsele, Dorotea.

Residents in small sparsely populated municipalities have the same right to support and contributions from the social services as they do in the large ones

Annika says that this project is important because residents in sparsely populated municipalities have the same right to support and contributions from the social services as they do in the large ones, which in the long run is an issue of equality and justice. Nearly half of the country's 290 municipalities have a population of less than 15,000 and many are struggling with a tight economy. Within the social services IFO, it is of great importance to maintain a high level of competence based on evidence-based knowledge. In order to be able to retain staff, get the most value from the money allocated and be able to handle all the different types of cases that IFO handles, it is necessary to cooperate across municipal boundaries. This requires decisions at both political and operational levels.

The project has an ambition to identify what can be seen as a basic level of knowledge that “everyone should have” and also in which areas expertise is required and beneficial to collaborate. There is also a lot going on in the digital development that can be useful for both clients and employees within IFO.

Annika says that she wishes that the project can contribute to it being seen as attractive to work within the social services IFO in small sparsely populated municipalities, that it becomes natural to work across municipal boundaries to create and utilize cutting-edge expertise, that digital technology is used to increase accessibility and quality and ultimately that the inhabitants of the municipalities receive the support and efforts they need.

The plan is to be able to carry out a study, where collaboration of clients and building up a common supply of skills between different social services, can be tested. Project planning started a few months ago and a steering group has already been formed with representatives from both the inland municipalities' social services, from the region's digital development unit and Umeå University.

In November, a conference/workshop will be arranged in Storuman to, together with those involved, in IFO in the eight sparsely populated municipalities, identify local needs for knowledge and discuss conditions for a municipality-wide structure and digital solutions for a unified and common skills development.

For more information

Annika Nordström
Other position
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Elisabet Höög
Research fellow
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Jan Hjelte
Associate professor
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