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Quick guide to social assistance

Social assistance, or income support, is the last-resort form of financial assistance. It is available to individuals and families who are unable to make a living by any other means, and whose income and assets do not cover their necessary daily expenses. This quick guide tells you how to apply for social assistance.

How to apply for social assistance

Basic 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 or food.

First apply for any other assistance to which you may be entitled

Social assistance is emergency financial assistance of the last resort. Before applying for social assistance you must first consider all other sources of income that could be available to you, and find out if you are entitled to social security benefits such as unemployment or housing allowances.

Calculate the amount of assistance that may be available to you

You can use a calculator (in Finnish) to see if you or your family can get basic social assistance.

Apply for social assistance online

Apply for assistance and submit supporting documentation online. There is also a paper form you can use to apply for social assistance. A third option is to make the application verbally,  in which case you must call or visit Kela's customer service.

Kela at your service

Do you or your family need to talk about social assistance? Call Kela or visit one of Kela's customer service points. You can also schedule an appointment.   

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

If you have specific expenses for which you cannot get basic social assistance, you can apply to the social services office of your wellbeing services county for supplementary or preventive social assistance.

How to apply for supplementary or preventive social assistance

First apply to Kela for basic social assistance. Kela will give you a decision on your application. If you wish to apply for supplementary or preventive social assistance, say so in your application. At your request, Kela can forward your application to the wellbeing services county if you apply for assistance with expenses that the basic social assistance does not cover. If you have already received a decision on basic social assistance, you can apply directly to the wellbeing services county for supplementary or preventive assistance.

Kela works together with the wellbeing services county

Kela works together with the wellbeing services county, and you can ask to have a meeting with representatives of both. If, due to your circumstances, you need support, the wellbeing services county can also offer various kinds of social services.

How your application is handled at Kela

You will get a decision within seven working days

After submitting an application for basic social assistance to Kela, you will receive a decision within seven working days. This assumes that you have submitted all necessary documents with your application.

Check the status of your application online

Go to Kela's e-service (in Finnish and Swedish) to see if your application has been dealt with. You can also look up information about other benefits Kela has awarded or paid to you.

Payments are scheduled for the first day of the month

Basic social assistance is paid into your account 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 simultaneously with the decision to grant you social assistance. In that case, the payment will be in your account within two working days.

Prescription medication with a pharmacy voucher

If you are granted basic social assistance and you need prescription medication, you get a voucher that you can present at the pharmacy.

Help with bills

If you have received a decision on basic social assistance, you may also be able to get help for example with an electricity or home insurance bill due while the social assistance decision is valid. Write your personal identity code on the bill and state whether you want it to be paid for you or whether Kela should deposit funds in your account that you can use to pay the bill yourself. You can send the bills to Kela either online or by mail.

Renewing an application

Kela usually grants basic social assistance for one to two months at a time. After that it is possible to renew your application and receive additional assistance.

If your circumstances change

Report changes in your circumstances

You must tell Kela of any changes in your circumstances that are relevant to the amount of basic social assistance you get. You can report such changes online, on a paper form or by calling Kela's customer service.

Review of social assistance

Your basic social assistance status is reviewed if there are changes in your circumstances or in your family's circumstances which could be relevant to the amount of basic social assistance you receive.

Personal assistance by appointment

If your circumstances change or you need personal assistance, you can book an appointment with Kela's phone customer service or one of Kela's customer service points.

Last modified 15/1/2024

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