Introduce Action Plan to Combat Violence Among Children Skip to content

Introduce Action Plan to Combat Violence Among Children

By Erik Pomrenke

school children
Photo: Golli.

Ásmundur Einar Daðason, the Minister of Education and Children, and Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir, the Minister of Justice, introduced a government action plan to combat violence among children at a press conference in Hannesarholt today. The plan includes fourteen action points aimed at preventing the rise of violence, enhancing preventive work, and uniting various service and response agencies in a coordinated effort against increasing violence among children and youth in Iceland.

Growing concern in Icelandic society

The report which accompanies the action plan (and can be read here), outlines a growing concern around issues such as bullying, sexual violence, and physical assault among Icelandic children. The first paragraph of the report reads:

“Concerns about violence among children have been growing in Icelandic society, especially in light of serious violent incidents among children and the increase in reports over the past few months. These incidents include sexual violence among high school students, severe bullying cases, physical assaults, and group fights. There are indications that younger children are witnessing violence among their peers, and the widespread use of social media has resulted in violence being recorded and shared. Consequently, many more children and youth are exposed to a certain culture of violence, which becomes part of their daily lives through social media. Research findings suggest that exposure to violence, whether directly or indirectly, can harm the emotional, psychological, and even physical development of children.”

Troubling trends

In 2022, further information from ministries, municipalities, and institutions were requested by the government in order to better understand this troubling trend among Icelandic youth.

In December 2022, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education and Children formed a ministerial committee to address issues involving multiple ministries. A cross-ministerial team was tasked with identifying the main challenges, actions, and proposals for improving responses to cases where victims and perpetrators have been under 18.

The statistics gathered by the report do confirm the troubling nature of the trend, as reports to the police and child protection services have increased significantly in cases with children involved. The report also states that the number of reports to child protection services about a child perpetrating violence more than doubled from 461 cases in 2016 to 1,072 in 2023. The number of minors suspected in assault cases reported to the police also doubled from 95 in 2016 to 186 in 2023. In 2023, minors under 18 accounted for 18% of all serious or major assault suspects, the highest percentage since 2016.

Fourteen action points

Stating a need for a holistic solution to the problem which takes into account socioeconomic dynamics, education, family life, and the differing responses of Icelandic institutions, the plan outlines 14 action points to combat rising violence among children.

  • Increase interdisciplinary approaches to violence cases among children
  • Support treatment options at the National Agency for Children and Families to address waiting lists
  • Establish procedures for non-criminally responsible children and solutions for children who commit serious violence
  • Review the handling of cases and solutions for criminally responsible children
  • Strengthen community policing
  • Implement regional consultations nationwide
  • Enhance the National Team of the Center for Educational and School Services, which supports children, parents, and schools
  • Create solutions for 16-17-year-olds who are neither working nor studying (NEET)
  • Strengthen youth work in Breiðholt
  • Increased resources for Flotinn, a mobile youth center
  • Increase education and prevention efforts
  • Active parental involvement – the SAMAN group
  • More international cooperation on sustainable communities
  • Coordinate actions and develop future strategies

360 million ISK over two years

The total cost of these actions is approximately 360 million ISK over a two-year period. The coordinating parties will include the Ministry of Education and Children, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health, the Association of Icelandic Municipalities, the City of Reyjavík, local police departments, and more.

 

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