Evaluation of Icehearts

Description of the practice Icehearts

You can read the entire evaluation of Icehearts in Julkari

  • Name of the practice: Icehearts
  • Objective: The aim of the Icehearts activities it to prevent social exclusion of children and young people, promote well-being and inclusion, and complement the services provided by society.
  • Background: The Icehearts activities were launched in 1996.
  • Need: The activities respond to the social and psychosocial problems of children and young people and to families’ need for support. The activities support the service structure by guiding children and young people to appropriate services at the right time. The practice prevents social exclusion.
  • Use of the practice: In 2023, the practice is in use in 14 Finnish municipalities and five other European countries have started to apply it. The activities involve more than 1,000 children and young people requiring special support.
  • Target group: Children and young people between the ages of 6 and 18 who require special support.
  • Method: The practice is based on supporting the children and young people for a period of 12 years. The same adult supports the child through childhood and youth. Each mentor has a group of about 20 children that serves as a growth community. The mentor supports the children at school, in hobbies, in their free time and in meetings with the authorities. The mentor also supports the child’s family. The activities are holistic and based on the principles of salutogenic promotion of health.
  • Ethics: The activity is linked to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and to national legislation.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: The organisation has several monitoring and evaluation instruments of its own. The impacts of the activities are monitored with different methods and in cooperation with the Finnish Icehearts Ry in several municipalities.
  • Cost estimate: One Icehearts group costs EUR 50,000–70,000 per year.

Results, impact and effectiveness

A lot of research has been conducted on the Icehearts activities. Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare currently has two ongoing monitoring studies lasting 13 years. Two doctoral dissertations on the activities are under way and more than 50 theses have also been completed on them.

There is no research of the long-term impacts of the activities. According to the organisation’s own reports, the children who have participated in the Icehearts activities have become socialised members of society.

According to the cost-effectiveness calculation carried out in 2017, one Icehearts team saves the resources of society by a minimum amount of EUR 2.8 million during the 12 years of activities.

Further development

The activities undergo continuous development in cooperation with the mentors and the municipalities. The development is based on best practices and research data. The Icehearts Europe project develops the activities together with European social-sector organisations and universities.

Summary of the evaluation

  • Evaluation category: The practice has been in use nationally for a long time (over 10 years)
  • Date of publication: 16th November 2023 (in Finnish), 29th February 2024 (in English)
  • Reviewers of the practice: Tomi Mäki-Opas, Elina Hasanen and Tiina Turkia

Overall evaluation: 5/5 excellent

The practice systematically utilises experiential and expert knowledge and research data. There is diverse national data on the effectiveness of the practice. Other corresponding practices do not exist. The long history of the practice, its rapid spread and the broad-based evidence of its effectiveness are in favour of even more extensive implementation of the practice.

As development measures, it would be important to draw up a more extensive risk assessment plan and a plan for the instillation of the activities, and to invest in external communication and multimethod monitoring.

Contact person for the practice in Finland

Teemu Vartiamäki
[email protected]

Icehearts web page