Does Kela pay benefits to IS fighters?
The question of whether Kela pays benefits to persons who participate in the activities of criminal organisations pops up in the media from time to time. Kela is not aware of a single case where a person who has gone to fight abroad would have received benefits from Finland. This is thus a hypothetical question of whether this would be possible.
Kela has on 13 February 2017 sent the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health information on the legislative changes needed in order to make it possible to deny social security benefits if it is known that a person is a member of a criminal organisation abroad.
Supposed membership in IS or some other criminal organisation is currently not a ground for withdrawing entitlement to coverage under the Finnish social security system. The current legislation should be changed if activity of this kind is to be a ground for withdrawing entitlement to coverage under the Finnish social security system. Such a stipulation would mean that the person concerned would under no circumstances receive any benefit from Kela.
Payment of benefits to another country is restricted already
In practice, payment of most Kela benefits is already restricted through benefit-specific stipulations, or payment is hindered altogether, if a person who is covered under the Finnish social security system stays abroad and Kela knows about it. For instance, social assistance is not paid to persons who stay abroad, and even a short stay abroad may hinder the payment of housing allowance. Payment of unemployment benefits presupposes that the person lives in Finland. The person must also be prepared to accept without delay a job or a place of study offered to him or her.
A temporary stay, i.e. a stay that lasts for a maximum of one year, in some other country than an EU country does not affect the entitlement to coverage under the Finnish social security system. However, the entitlement to Kela benefits during the stay abroad is always investigated. If the move abroad is permanent, i.e. lasts for more than one year, the entitlement to coverage under the social security system ends on the date of the move abroad, and the payment of benefits ends likewise.
Cooperation between authorities of key importance
The important thing is that Kela and other authorities receive information if a person who is covered under the Finnish social security system moves abroad on a permanent or temporary basis. If a person who is covered under the Finnish social security system does not himself or herself inform Kela about a move abroad, or if the information is not forwarded via a notification of move to the Local Register Office, the payment of benefits may continue without grounds for a very long time. If the person later returns to Finland, the stay abroad and its effect on the entitlement to coverage under the social security system may perhaps not be investigated at all.