What do the social services do?
Last updated: 4 10 2021
This text is about the social services. All municipalities in Sweden have social services that provide various types of help and support to people. This might be financial support to families or support to people with functional impairments. The text describes how the social services work to promote the best interests of children. It also explains the Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions) Act, known in Swedish as Lagen om vård av unga, or LVU.
The main task of the social services is to provide parents with the help and support they need in order to be able to look after their children. If you are finding something difficult about parenting, it is a good first step to admit it to someone. That makes it easier to change something about your situation. It is also easier for the social services to provide the right help if they are able to collaborate with the parents and if everyone trusts one another.
The social services work to promote children’s best interests – Information for parents
This text has been taken from a brochure published by the National Board of Health and Welfare called "The social services work to promote children's best interests – Information for parents".
Many families receive help from the social services
Every municipality has social services. Social services staff are qualified social workers with specialist knowledge about children's needs, and their job is to ensure that all children get to grow up under safe circumstances. In practice, this might involve giving support to families in which one of the parents has mental health or addiction problems. The social services also have to protect children and parents who are subjected to violence or abuse.
The principal aim is to get things to function better at home
The social services can help you in many different ways. The way it usually works is that you first come to an agreement about what type of support is most suitable. Families in which there are lots of conflicts, for example, can meet with a person who is specialised in helping families resolve conflicts. Parents can be given support in their parenting role, either in individual counselling or in group sessions with other parents. Children can have a contact person appointed for them or get to meet with other children in similar situations.
Anyone can apply for support and protection
If you think you need support or protection, you are welcome to contact the social services and describe your situation. Both children and parents can contact the social services for help and support.
To speak to the social services, contact their office in your home municipality. Your municipality's website has phone numbers and other means of contacting them.
If you are concerned for someone else, you can notify the social services
Anyone who suspects that a child may be coming to harm can notify the social services of their concern. This does not mean that you are reporting the child's parents, for example, only that you are reporting your concern for the child. If staff in preschool, school or medical care services suspect that a child is coming to harm, they are obliged by law to notify the social services.
You make your notification of concern directly to the social services. If you only want to ask questions about a child's situation, you can do so without stating the child's name.
What happens next?
If the social services make the assessment that a child may be in need of protection or support, it is their job to determine what is best for the child and the family. They do this by making an investigation into the child's situation. Parents as well as children are invited to be part of the investigation and to give their version of the situation. The social services may also need to speak to other people who know the child, such as relatives and teachers.
What information are the social services allowed to share?
Everyone who comes into contact with the social services must be able to rely on them not to share sensitive information with others. The social services therefore has a great responsibility when it comes to protecting information as well. This is known as professional secrecy, or a duty of confidentiality. As the guardian of a child, you would normally be told everything to do with your child. But the social services may not share any information that could expose the child to a serious risk. The older a child gets, the more decisions the child gets to make independently. Older children may therefore need to approve the sharing of certain information with their guardians.
Support if the child cannot continue living at home
If living at home does not work, the child may have to live somewhere else for a period of time. This might be with another family (a foster home) or a home for care or residence (an HVB home). Parents in that situation are entitled to support from the social services, which might include help to develop their parenting. The goal is always to make things as good as possible for the child.
Koll på soc – for older children
Kollpasoc.se is a website for children about the social services. It has information about the social services and how they can help children and young people. The texts are written in easy-to-understand Swedish and are based on real questions children have asked.
The Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions) Act (abbreviated LVU)
If a child or a young person under the age of 21 is at risk of coming to grave harm, that child can be taken into care under the Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions) Act (Lagen om vård av unga, or LVU). This is an act intended to protect children and young people from coming to harm.
Under LVU, the social services can place a child or a young person in a foster home, for example, even if it is against the will of the child and its parents. The social services can do this if a child is in a very bad situation at home with his or her family, or if the child does things that could be bad or cause harm to the child.