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Overview of 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.

Individuals and families living or residing permanently in Finland can get social assistance if their income and assets do not cover their necessary expenses such as food and housing. Income is understood as meaning all available income and assets. However, anyone staying in Finland, even if temporarily, has a right to emergency support to secure their indispensable subsistence and care.

Social assistance is intended to be a source of short-term financial aid that helps recipients overcome or avoid temporary difficulties and promotes their autonomy and independence.

Parliament has approved the amendment concerning the recognition of housing costs under the social assistance scheme

The legislative amendment will not bring about any major changes to the current practices. Mostly, it will make the criteria for recognising housing costs clearer by codifying them in an act and a decree. However, the amendment will in some respects tighten the criteria for recognising housing costs that exceed the maximum limit. The legislative amendment will enter into force on 1 April 2024.

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There are three components to social assistance

Social assistance consists of the following three components:

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

Basic social assistance from Kela

Applications for basic social assistance must be submitted to Kela. How to apply for social assistance.

The right to basic social assistance is determined by means of a calculation of income, assets and expenses. All of the applicant's or family's net income and assets are included in the calculation. Net income means income after deduction for taxes.

Learn more: What are the types of expenses for which you can get basic social assistance?

Apply to your wellbeing services county for supplementary and preventive social assistance

If you have specific expenses which basic social assistance does not cover, the social services office of your wellbeing services county may provide you with supplementary or preventive social assistance.

Supplementary social assistance

Applications for supplementary social assistance are handled by the wellbeing services county.

Supplementary social assistance can be granted for the following expenses:

  • housing costs for which you cannot get basic social assistance
  • expenses related to the specific needs and circumstances of your family or yourself which are considered necessary to secure a livelihood and promote autonomy and independence.

Preventive social assistance

The wellbeing services county may also provide you with preventive social assistance, which is often associated with social work. The purpose of preventive social assistance is to promote the social safety and autonomy of your family and yourself as well as to prevent marginalisation and dependency on social assistance.

Preventive social assistance can be granted for such purposes as:

  • to secure your housing arrangements
  • to relieve hardship caused by a sudden financial setback
  • to promote your autonomy in other ways.

Information about supplementary and preventive social assistance is available from the social services office in your wellbeing services county.

When to contact Kela as opposed to the wellbeing services county

  1. You must always first apply to Kela for basic social assistance. You will need a decision on basic social assistance even if your application only concerns supplementary or preventive 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 your wellbeing services county for supplementary or preventive assistance.

Kela works together with the wellbeing service county as appropriate to your situation

If you or your family would like to talk to a Kela counsellor about basic social assistance, call Kela's customer service at 020 634 2550 or contact a Kela's customer service point. If needed, a customer service advisor can schedule an appointment for you, or you can do so yourself at www.kela.fi/appointments. Kela and the wellbeing services county may also set up a joint meeting, or you can ask that such a meeting be set up.

If you want to talk about your situation either individually or as a family, there are specialists that you can contact. Kela can, if you wish, forward the information you provide to the social services office of your wellbeing services county. You can also get in touch with the municipal social services office directly.

Kela may share information about you with the social services office of the wellbeing services county so that it can assess whether you need assistance, whether there is a need for child protection services, or whether an elderly person needs assistance. Contact details or information for identifying a young person under 29 may be shared with the person’s municipality of residence if Kela judges that the person needs help to gain access to services or other support.

Kela receives information needed to process applications for basic social assistance directly from the social services authorities of the wellbeing services county.

For statistical purposes, Kela may provide general information concerning basic social assistance to the National Institute for Health and Welfare.

Urgent situations

If you need basic social assistance urgently because of your situation, call Kela's customer service at 020 634 2550 or visit a Kela service point. Urgent situations include for example if you are threatened with eviction or if you have been released from hospital and need medicine urgently. Kela evaluates if your need for assistance is urgent. If your application is considered urgent, it will be decided on the day it arrived or the following working day.

If possible, make an application for social assistance in OmaKela and submit the relevant supporting documents before contacting Kela’s customer service. If you have submitted your application and the supporting documents before calling, it will speed up the processing of the matter. 

If you need social assistance for example at a time when Kela's offices are not open, the wellbeing services county may at its discretion grant you preventive social assistance until you receive a decision from Kela on basic social assistance.

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Last modified 15/3/2024