Support for integration
The articles in this series provide more information on the role of employment services, education, daycare and association activities in integration work.
– In a way, we are a midway point. As a part of the integration services of the City of Turku, our duty is to advise people and help them move forward. We do not make any decisions, although I’m sure many of our clients think that we are social workers, says the designer of Infotori, Elena Fedorenko.
In its current format, Infotori has operated since the beginning of 2015, and its speciality is its wide language selection. Fedorenko serves clients in Finnish, English and Russian, and the other employee of Infotori, Avin Mohammed Ahmed, serves in Kurdish and Arabic.
In addition to them, part-time advisors hired through Sondip ry work for Infotori, extending the number of available languages to thirteen. The service hours of the rarer languages are presented in the weekly calendar of Infotori.
– Some advisors are multilingual. For example, our Albanian language advisor can also offer assistance in Greek and Italian, says Fedorenko.
The most common languages used by the clients are, in order, Arabic, Russian and Kurdish. Since the beginning of 2016 the service has had over 3,000 contacts, and the number is growing.
Most clients want to discuss face to face.
– Most clients want to discuss face to face. Mondays and Fridays are the busiest days, and the days following the payments of pension and income assistance are also busy.
Help required for filling out forms
A large part of the work with clients includes filling in various applications and forms with the client. All Kela forms, for example, are available in Finnish, Swedish and English, but not in other languages. Assistance is needed for both pension and student allowance matters, for example. Residence permit and family reunification issues are also brought up often.
The employees of Infotori help the client find out more about the decisions made for them and guide them forward to see the right authorities.
– Decisions written in official language often remain unclear, and the client is not certain if they have understood the decision correctly. The income assistance can also vary from month to month, and when these decisions are reviewed, we can sometimes spot mistakes, says Avin Mohammed Ahmed.
Help is often also needed for making doctor’s appointments or applying for an apartment. The employees hear questions about many different subjects, which makes Elena Fedorenko happy and even proud.
The only way to learn about things is by asking.
– I always tell the visiting groups that there are no stupid questions. The only way to learn about things is by asking.
However, even Infotori is not always able to help: Fedorenko remembers an anxious woman, who once called Infotori, looking for a Russian-speaking veterinarian for her pet hamster. Unfortunately, they were unable to find one.
No appointments needed
Infotori services are targeted at all immigrants living in the Turku region. Appointment does not have to be made in advance, although it is recommended if the matter to be discussed takes a long time. For example, a client may have several residence permit application forms, which all have multiple pages.
According to Elena Fedorenko, there are some immigrant groups who do not have good access to social services. New service models are being developed in order to reach these groups.
– For example, EU citizens coming to work for a shipyard are one such group. Typically, the men work here for a while, receive income from their work and do not require any help from the authorities. When their families move in after them, they require information about all the services available to families, Fedorenko says.
Text and photo by Elina Teerijoki