Transfer of administrative responsibility for the social assistance scheme to Kela

Responsibility for the administration of the basic social assistance scheme was transferred to Kela at the beginning of 2017. The transfer is aimed at simplifying the social assistance scheme, increasingly offering clients single-window access to programmes and services, making the system more equitable for all clients, and using personnel resources more effectively. 

Parliament expects the impact of the reform to be monitored and evaluated. 

  • What trends can be seen in the numbers of social assistance clients?
  • What are the cost impacts if any?
  • Does the reform reinforce the role of social assistance as a temporary form of financial relief that promotes autonomy and prevents marginalisation?

Effects of the administrative transfer and the new social assistance system

Research of the effects of the administrative transfer of the social assistance scheme to Kela focuses both on the impact of the transfer and on the effectiveness of the scheme, which is studied from a variety of perspectives. 

  • The former requires information about the status of the scheme before and after the reform and a research approach designed to evaluate the impact of the transfer. 
  • The latter approach emphasises the analysis of Kela’s operations within the context of the new social assistance system after the reform. 

Consisting of a number of substudies, the project produces information that can be used in developing further the social assistance system and Kela’s operations. The substudies are conducted by Kela’s Research Section together with other Kela organisational units and other research organisations.

Research topics

The principal researcher is Minna Ylikännö, Senior Researcher at Kela. She is accompanied by Markku Laatu, Antti Veilahti, Hanna-Mari Heinonen, Tuija Korpela and Simo Raittila.

Using different types of data, the project looks at clients’ experiences with how the new system works, Kela’s social assistance operations, and, more broadly, the effects of the transfer on the functioning of the social security system.

Better research through better data

With the availability of better statistics, data on the application and payment of social assistance makes it possible to perform a more detailed and diversified register study. Several current studies are utilising register data:

  • Transition of basic social assistance recipients without other benefit eligibility to primary benefit schemes (Tuija Korpela and Simo Raittila)
  • Administrative decisions to lower the basic amount of social assistance (Antti Veilahti)
  • Single parents as recipients of social assistance (Minna Ylikännö)
  • Pensioners as recipients of social assistance (Minna Ylikännö)
  • Concurrent receipt of Kela benefits and basic social assistance (Tuija Korpela)

Data have also been collected through surveys and interviews. Markku Laatu and Hanna-Mari Heinonen are looking at the process preceding the transfer of administrative responsibility and the views and experiences of Kela staff concerning the reform. Data were collected both at the beginning of and after the transfer. Hanna-Mari Heinonen will use the data in her doctoral thesis on social assistance.

A phone survey was carried out in the summer of 2017 to explore social assistance clients’ first experiences with the administrative transfer (Markku Laatu and Ilpo Airio). A more extensive survey in 2018 looked at the experiences and preferences that recipients of basic social assistance had regarding the implementation of the Kela benefits and how it could be developed further (Markku Laatu and Hannu Mattila).

Results have been published in different forums. Work is currently underway on a book that will include articles by both Kela researchers and other research organisations and focus on the transfer of administrative responsibility, the functioning of the new system, and future challenges in social assistance. The book is expected come out in Kela’s publication series early in the summer of 2019.

Other research projects on this topic

The effects of the transfer of administrative responsibility for the provision of basic social assistance to Kela are studied in the Social assistance in Helsinki in the 2010s project, which uses a dataset compiled from City of Helsinki and Kela registries covering the years 2011–2019. The project looks at how the reform has affected the number of social assistance applicants and recipients, the client base, other benefit recipiency, award practices and the service process. The data collected will also be used to study the link between social assistance and recipiency of health-related Kela benefits before and after the transfer of administrative responsibility to Kela. Coordinated by Tuija Korpela, the project involves ten researchers from Kela.

Kela register data on basic social assistance are used in the Social assistance and housing costsproject, which is part of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities. The project is headed by Signe Jauhiainen of Kela. Tuija Korpela and Minna Ylikännö of Kela are also participating. The project is a collaboration with the VATT Institute for Economic Research and the University of Helsinki.

The transfer of administrative responsibility for the basic social assistance scheme is also studied in the extensive TITA research project, with participation from Kela Research (incl. Minna Ylikännö and Markku Laatu). Headed by Professor Mikko Niemelä of the University of Turku, the project is a collaboration with the University of Turku, the University of Helsinki Swedish School of Social Science, the University of Eastern Finland and the National Institute for Health and Welfare. 

In 2016–2018, Kela Research cooperated in the implementation of the social barometers of the SOSTE Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health. During that time, the barometer survey included a battery of questions focusing on the transfer of administrative responsibility for the basic social assistance scheme to Kela.



Contact information

Minna Ylikännö, Lead Researcher, tel. +358 50 313 8712
Markku Laatu, Senior Researcher, tel. +358 50 576 8928
Antti Veilahti, Senior Researcher, tel. +358 20 6341277 
Hanna-Mari Heinonen, Researcher, tel. +358 50 348 0372
Tuija Korpela, Researcher, tel. +358 50 331 3506
Simo Raittila, Researcher, tel. +358 20 6341962


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