Frequently asked questions about social assistance | Our Services | KelaSkip to content

Frequently asked questions about social assistance

Social assistance, or income support, is a last-resort form of financial assistance for individuals and families which covers some of the basic necessities of life.

There are three components to social assistance:

  • basic social assistance
  • supplementary social assistance
  • preventive social assistance

You may have a right to basic social assistance if your income and assets do not cover your essential daily needs such as housing, food, health care and clothing. Applications for basic social assistance must be submitted to Kela.

The social services office of the wellbeing services county can provide supplementary or preventive social assistance after considering your situation.

Social assistance is a last-resort form of financial assistance and is affected by all income and assets available to you, which includes social security benefits that you may get from Kela, your pension provider, an unemployment fund, or other sources.

Because social assistance is a last-reform form of assistance, you must first try to qualify for any other financial assistance which may be available to you. Among the benefits available from Kela, this includes unemployment benefits, housing benefits, pensions, financial aid for students, daily allowances for parents, sickness allowance, child home care allowances, and child maintenance allowances.

The right to basic social assistance is determined by means of a calculation of income and expenses. The types of income and expenses taken into account are defined in the Act on Social Assistance.

  • For the purpose of the calculation, income means the applicant's or the family's available net income after taxes as well as their assets. Assets means for example the savings deposited in a bank account.
  • Expenses are defined as the basic amount and other basic expenses. The basic amount is the sum of money needed for the essential costs of daily living.
  • If the recognised costs are higher than the income, applicants have the right to social assistance that covers the difference between costs and income.

Example

A resident of Sipoo, Sanna is unemployed and the single parent of two children under 10 years of age. She has no savings or other assets. Because of her difficult financial situation, she applies to Kela for basic social assistance.

The family's income is as follows:

  • labour market subsidy + child increase €732.48 
  • child benefit + single-parent supplement €346.32 
  • housing allowance €662,40
  • child maintenance allowance €392.04  

The family's expenses are as follows:

  • rent €810
  • water charges €45
  • basic amount linked to family size €1,463.40:
    • single parent €669.99
    • first child 10 years or older €411.40
    • second child 10 years or older €382.01

Total income €2,133.24 – total expenses €2,318.40  = –€185.16 

Sanna and her family are paid €185.16 in basic social assistance.

The amounts shown reflect the rates for 2024, specifically 1 January 2024 to 31 March 2024.

Social assistance is not subject to tax.

Social assistance is usually granted for one month at a time. If you have regular monthly income and expenses, you can apply for a longer period of time.

If you are paid social assistance by Kela you can stop the payment for example by contacting Kela by phone. If you have a decision from the municipal authorities contact the social services office of your municipality.

Basic social assistance is granted by Kela, and supplementary and preventive social assistance by the wellbeing services county.

You must always first apply to Kela for basic social assistance. In your application, you can state that you have certain expenses which are not covered by basic social assistance and for which you need supplementary or preventive social assistance. At your request, Kela can forward your application for supplementary or preventive social assistance, along with any supporting documents, to the wellbeing services county.

You can apply online for social assistance from Kela. Supporting documents can also be sent online. You can e.g. take a photo of a document with your phone and send it online if it is clearly legible. You can also apply for social assistance on a paper form or make your application verbally. If you wish, you can get help with how to apply for social assistance. You are free to visit any of Kela’s customer service points. You can also book an appointment for an office visit or for phone service.

The basic amount of the basic social assistance which may be available from Kela covers

  • food
  • clothing
  • minor medical expenses
  • personal hygiene and keeping your home clean
  • public transport
  • newspaper subscription
  • telephone and internet
  • hobbies and recreation
  • and other comparable expenses of daily living.

Kela may also recognise the following expenses within reasonable limits:

  • housing costs and the maintenance of a single-family home
  • necessary moving costs
  • household electricity
  • home insurance premiums
  • other medical expenses besides those covered by the basic amount
  • daycare costs and the costs for before and after school programmes
  • the costs incurred by the child’s parent or by a guardian living with the child to the extent that they involve the child spending time with a parent living in another household and that the costs are based either on an agreement confirmed by a municipal authority or the wellbeing services county or on a court decision
  • the costs of obtaining a necessary identity, residence or travel document
  • The basic amount of social assistance covers minor medical expenses such as over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies. Any expenses which are included in the basic amount of social assistance are not accepted as additional expenses.
  • Other basic expenses that can be accepted include the cost of using (primarily public) health services, such as the fees charged by health centres and outpatient clinics. Only expenses for which you are not compensated by some other source, such as health insurance or a private insurance policy, are accepted. You must always present proof of such expenses (for example an invoice).
  • Your own share of the travel costs associated with visiting a public health care provider, costs for public dental care, and the reasonable costs of buying eyeglasses can also be accepted as medical expenses.
  • Costs for private health care are accepted only if the care is urgently needed. Such situations come up very rarely because public-sector providers offer around-the-clock access to health care.
  • If Kela grants you basic social assistance and you need prescription medication, you will receive a voucher that you can use at the pharmacy.

Kela can provide a voucher towards the deposit as part of basic social assistance in the following situations: divorce or end of cohabitation, health reasons, change in family size, homelessness or threat of homelessness, getting a job or place of study in another city or town, or moving to a more affordable home at the instruction of Kela or the municipal social services office.

The basic amount is a fixed sum of money needed for the essential costs of daily living. These expenses are not examined separately, but are covered collectively by the basic amount. It is therefore not necessary to provide individual evidence of payment (for example bills or invoices), or sales receipts or phone bills.

Documentation about other basic expenses (e.g. a rental agreement or invoice) must be provided along with the application. Usually Kela recognises other basic expenses as such unless they are considered to be unreasonably large.

However, you should not send Kela bills or invoices for which you have already received basic social assistance and which you are expected to pay from your own account. Also, do not submit any documents for expenses that you cannot get basic social assistance for, such as fines, back tax or instalment payments for a car or household appliance.

Remember to enclose all necessary supporting documents with your application. This will ensure that your application can be reviewed within seven working days. If you submit the application online, you will, at the end of the application process, see a list of the documents you must send in support of your application. The documents are also listed on the paper application form.

Kela will usually pay the amount charged on a bill to you up front, so that you can pay the bill yourself. You can also ask Kela to pay a bill directly for example to the electric company or an insurance company. If you want Kela to pay a bill on your behalf, write Maksetaan laskuttajalle on each bill you want Kela to pay.

Kela will pay the bill only if the amount of social assistance granted to you is enough to cover the bill. Check the decision you get to make sure that all of the bills you asked to be paid directly have been paid.

The easiest way to send your invoices to Kela is to use Kela’s e-service. Please note that our e-service is only available in Finnish and Swedish. Documents photographed with a mobile phone are accepted if the pictures are clear and legible. Read more.

After submitting an application for basic social assistance to Kela, you receive a decision within 7 working days. This assumes that you include all necessary documentation with your application. If your application is incomplete, Kela will contact you and ask you to supply the necessary additional documents.

Kela usually pays the basic social assistance on the first business day of the month. It is recommended that you apply for social assistance about two weeks before the beginning of the month for which it is to be paid. That way the payment will reach your account immediately on the first business day of the month. If you are granted social assistance but it is too late to pay it to you on the regular payment date, the payment is made at the same time with the decision to grant you social assistance. The payment is paid into your bank account within 2 business days.

You should first check the decision you received from Kela to make sure that your income and expenses are stated correctly. If you think that the decision you received from Kela on basic social assistance is wrong, ask Kela to re-examine it or make a request for rectification.

If you have particular expenses for which you cannot get basic social assistance, you may be able to get supplemental or preventive social assistance from your wellbeing services county. Contact the social services office of your wellbeing services county.

Basic social assistance is granted by Kela, and supplementary and preventive social assistance by the wellbeing services county. Learn more about the types of expenses for which you can get basic social assistance from Kela.

If you need social assistance:

  1. First apply to Kela for basic social assistance.
  2. In your application, you can state that you have certain expenses which are not covered by basic social assistance and for which you need supplementary or preventive social assistance. At your request, Kela can forward your application for supplementary or preventive social assistance, along with any supporting documents, to the wellbeing services county.
  3. If you have already received a decision from Kela on basic social assistance, you can apply directly to the wellbeing services county for supplementary or preventive assistance.
  4. You will need a decision on basic social assistance even if your application only concerns supplementary or preventive assistance.

Learn more about the division of responsibilities between Kela and the wellbeing services county. More information may also be available on the website of your wellbeing service county.

Social assistance is a family-specific benefit. That means that the amount of basic social assistance which is available is affected by the income, assets and expenses of all family members. This is why the application asks about their income and expenses.

‘Family' means parents living in the same household, minor children or adopted children, married spouses or cohabiting partners, and persons living in a registered partnership.

Last modified 1/1/2024

What do you think of this page?