“Creating a positive narrative around social services is key to contribute to their development”  

Meet Lea Suoninen-Erhiö, Managing Director at the Huoltaja Foundation, an independent expert organisation that brings together professionals, researchers and developers working in the field of social welfare and social care services. Lea works together with her colleagues to strengthen social services, vocational competence, and knowledge through the organisation of meetings and seminars on different thematic issues.

In her role as Managing Director, she mainly focuses on communication as she has over 20 years experience of working as a journalist specialised in the social sector. Lea is strongly committed to promoting a positive narrative around social services. In her opinion, we should take every chance to communicate our work to highlight the role and meaning of social services.

We asked how Huoltaja Foundation came up with the idea of building a positive narrative around social services.

The Huoltaja Foundation organised an essay competition for professionals in the field of social services with the aim to collect different experiences and highlight the challenges faced by people in vulnerable situations and social services professionals during Covid-19. The essays described how the pandemic affected the lives of people using services and professionals on the ground and how they promoted social inclusion under such difficult circumstances.

Lea explained how through the organisation of this competition, they were able to show the importance of respecting human dignity and social justice when working with people in vulnerable situations. The essays emphasised that these values are not abstract principles, but foundational values we all must commit to.

We asked Lea how ESN has supported her and the Huoltaja Foundation in learning from others, and this is what she answered:

"My participation in ESN has opened the possibility to learn about how social services are organised in other national contexts. These opportunities have opened new windows and ways to understand social wellbeing and inclusion."