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 in Finland can apply for social assistance if their income and assets do not cover their necessary expenses.  Other social security benefits are counted as income. The need for assistance is assessed on the basis of each individual's personal situation.

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

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 municipality for supplementary and preventive social assistance

If you have specific expenses which basic social assistance does not cover, the municipal social services office may at its discretion provide you with supplementary or preventive social assistance.

Find out if you can get basic social assistance

You can estimate your eligibility for basic social assistance quickly and easily with this calculator (in Finnish).


Supplementary social assistance

Applications for supplementary social assistance are handled by municipal authorities.

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 municipal authorities 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 your municipality's social services office.

When to contact Kela as opposed to the municipal social services office

  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 municipal authorities.

  3. If you have already received a decision from Kela on basic social assistance, you can apply directly to your municipality for supplementary or preventive assistance.

Kela works together with the municipal authorities 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.

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 municipal social services office. You can also get in touch with the municipal social services office directly.

Kela may share information about you with the municipal social services office 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 home municipality for the purpose of outreach youth work if the person’s overall situation is judged to be such that he or she needs help to gain access to services or other support.

Kela receives information needed for the processing of applications for basic social assistance directly from the municipal social welfare authorities.

Urgent situations

If you need social assistance urgently, you can contact a Kela's customer service point or call 020 634 2550. Any applications judged urgent are processed within two working days. If you need social assistance for example at a time when Kela's customer service point are not open, the municipality can at its discretion grant you preventive social assistance until you receive a decision from Kela on basic social assistance.

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

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