Icehearts Europe Project

ISCA and the Finnish long-term support programme for vulnerable children, Icehearts, are joining forces with 10 partners to launch a Europe-wide expansion of this successful initiative, backed by an EU4Health Action Grant.

Supporting children’s mental and physical wellbeing

The mental health burden in society, especially among youth, has been extensively researched and the need for intervention programmes is clear from the focus on mental health in the EU4Health work programme.

The three-year Icehearts Europe project aims to address several health-related problems that children and youth face nowadays:

  • Approximately 20-25% of youth are suffering from mental health problems in the aftermath of COVID-19
  • The long-lasting trend of insufficient physical activity for 80% of adolescents puts the health and wellbeing of children and youth at serious risk

Icehearts Europe is uniquely positioned to address the intersections of physical activity, mental health and physical health and deliver benefits in all of these fields.

The Icehearts approach

Icehearts is as an evidence-based and highly successful best practice from Finland. The model provides consistent, long-term, holistic support for vulnerable children.

Icehearts Finland uses team sports as a tool for engaging children with social work. Each team is led by a mentor who supports the selected children at school, after school and at home for 12 years. Children who require special support and who have been recognised as being at risk of social exclusion early on are selected for a team. They are selected in co-operation with pre-school, school and social service professionals. The child’s caregivers ultimately decide if the child will participate in the team activities and accept the support offered.

Icehearts Finland lays the foundations for the Icehearts Europe methodology to be further qualified through international exchanges, adapted to new countries and their cultural contexts, and pilot tested in numerous communities across Europe.

The project’s target groups

Programme implementers

The Icehearts Europe project will select and train associated partners (1st adopters) who agree to test the Icehearts Europe model during the project. The results of these pilots will be used to refine the model and the training guides will be shared as online learning tools to encourage more organisations to adopt the model (2nd adopters).

1st adopters

Organisations that engage in implementing Icehearts Europe programmes in collaboration with local and cross-sector partners during the project’s lifetime.

2nd adopters

Stakeholders and organisations that have an interest in the Icehearts approach and could potentially implement it in the future.

Ultimate target group

Children and youth with special needs from across Europe. Icehearts Europe participants will benefit from better mental health, specifically through the support, counselling and physical activities/sport facilitated by the Icehearts mentors.


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