New millions in the budget to try with leisure cards for children

Oslo.Prime Minister Erna Solberg (Conservative Party), Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad (Christian Democratic Party) and Minister of Education and Integration Trine Skei Grande (Liberal Party).Photo: Ole Berg-Rusten / NTB scanpix
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Municipalities across the country now have barely two weeks to apply for money and join the government’s trial project with leisure cards for children.

– “The goal is that everyone should be able to participate in leisure activities and that children and young people should not experience being left outside,” says Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H) to NTB.

It was KrF that made last year’s impact on establishing a national scheme with a leisure card for children and young people.

– “Too many children and young people are not given the opportunity to participate in recreational activities today. We know that social networking, friends, and leisure activities are key to inclusion and integration and to avoid being an outsider,” says Minister of Children and Family Kjell Ingolf Ropstad (KrF).

He took the Prime Minister and the Left leader and Minister of Knowledge Trine Skei Grande to Sagene IF and the sports facility at Voldsløkka in Oslo to present the news that interested municipalities can now apply for funds.

– “This should apply to everyone. We increase the child benefit for everyone under the age of 6, so we get leisure cards for them so that everyone can have the opportunity to participate in various leisure activities,” says Grande.

Card Machine?
Glorious winter sunshine is reflected off of the polished ice, where dozens of children from several nearby schools are testing their skating skills – along with an eager children’s minister.

– “There is 20 percent child poverty in the Sagene district. So this is a very relevant issue here,” says CEO Vibeke Thiblin of Sagene IF to NTB.

“We have NOK 500,000 in outstanding membership and training fees at all times. We cover about 20 percent a year and that doesn’t pay for itself,” she says.

Thiblin recalls that 80 percent of the borough’s population lives in apartment blocks.

– “We also become a meeting place in addition to being a sports center,” she notes.

Thiblin wants answers on whether the scheme could be combined with contributions from a sponsor or donor. She hopes for a scheme that does not stigmatize but has the same rules for everyone. And she wants a bureaucratic system.

“The simplest thing would have been if they put it in a card machine of some kind and be able to pay there and then,” she says.

“Norway in miniature”
The government has set aside NOK 60 million for attempts at leisure card schemes in 2020. Various schemes will now be tested in a few municipalities.

Ropstad wants the pilot municipalities to constitute a “Norway in miniature”, with some small and some large municipalities, and municipalities with different living conditions challenges.

In the long run, the goal is a national scheme, but when that will happen, neither Ropstad nor Solberg can answer.

– “It will take a few years before we get into it, both budget-wise, but also when it comes to finding the ideal model,” says Solberg.

Ropstad clearly states that he will have donated more than NOK 60 million to the scheme in the 2021 budget.

At the same time, Grande is announcing a fight for the children to get their own participation in the scheme, which is inspired by a similar system in Iceland.

– “I want the children to decide for themselves in the Norwegian version. Children need to be co-determined and help shape their leisure activities,” she says.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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