Information for people with disabilities in Finland

Tietoa toimintarajoitteisille Suomessa
This article is about what rights people with disabilities have to various services and allowances in Finland It also deals with importing assistive devices, medicines and guide dogs as well as appealing against social welfare services or decisions.

Moving and housing

Under Article 9 of the Nordic Convention on Social Assistance and Social Services, the competent authorities must assist people with disabilities when they move. Housing in Finland is covered in general terms in the article Housing in Finland.

It is the responsibility of local authorities to make sure that a person with a disability is able to move if

  • the person is moving of his or her own free will
  • the person has particular connections to the country that he or she intends to move to
  • it is expected that the person’s life situation will improve in the new country.

If a person with a disability personally considers that the move will improve his or her life situation, this by itself a strong reason for the move to take place. Contact your municipality of residence to get help with moving. Mention Article 9 of the Nordic Convention on Social Assistance and Social Services if necessary. More information on living in Finland with a disability in the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s Handbook on Disability Services.

Housing for people with disabilities

Some municipalities have so-called disability homes for people with disabilities. Getting a home very much depends on which municipality a person with disabilities moves to and what sort of home the person is able to live in.

In housing for people with disabilities it should be noted that Finnish municipalities must provide certain social services regardless of their budgetary situation, i.e. municipalities have a special obligation to provide these.

Service housing

Under Section 8 of the Act on Disability Services, a municipality must provide a person with severe disabilities service housing, among other things, if the person due to his or her disability or illness necessarily requires service in order to carry out everyday activities. This does not apply to persons in institutional care, however.

For questions related to moving it is recommended that you contact your municipality of residence, where you can get information on the housing situation in that municipality for people with disabilities. If necessary you can also ask the authorities in your present municipality of residence to contact your future municipality of residence.

Assistants, dogs and assistive devices

Many people with disabilities need a helper to get through their daily lives. This naturally also applies to travelling and moving.

Personal assistants

If a person moves permanently to another Nordic country, you can claim an allowance in your new municipality of residence for a personal assistance. This may take some time to process, so you should contact the new municipality of residence in good time.

If a person resides in another Nordic country for a short time, the municipality will in certain cases grant support for the costs of an assistant. If a journey, employment or studies take longer (no more than half a year), a municipality will rarely pay the costs of a personal assistant. Ask your municipality of residence about the possibilities for getting support. The Finnish Municipalities Directory is available online.

Guide dogs

Finnish legislation does not contain separate rules on importing guide dogs to Finland; the same rules apply to guide dogs as for other dogs. The rules on importing dogs are covered in the section Importing pets and domestic animals to Finland.

Assistive devices

There are no general rules on importing and exporting assistive devices between the Nordic countries, because there are different rules for different assistive devices. Among other things, the rules depend on whether an assistive device is considered to be removal goods, whether public support has been obtained for the device, whether the device is attached to the body and whether it is covered by the country’s customs rules. Therefore questions related to imports are largely addressed by special legislation.

If your stay in Finland is temporary, such as a holiday or visiting relatives, assistive devices may be taken from one Nordic country to another.

If you plan to move permanently to Finland from another Nordic country, it is recommended that you contact your present municipality of residence and the new municipality of residence in Finland, where you can get advice on a case-by-case basis. The contact details and internet addresses of Finnish municipalities can be found on the website of the Association of Finnish Municipalities.

Exchange students

A student going on a higher education exchange or higher education staff with a disability, illness, learning difficulty or other special need can get extra financial support to participate in an international exchange. The special needs grant is intended for example for accessible accommodation, assisted mobility or study-related arrangements such as learning materials.

Medicines

As part of the Schengen treaty, the Nordic countries are committed to liberal rules on personal imports of medicines. The general rule is that you can bring in medicines from the Nordic countries for your own personal use in quantities corresponding to not more than one year’s use. Imports of medicines are covered in the section Customs rules in Finland.

Cars

The rules for importing cars used by persons with disabilities are the same as for imports of other cars. Imports of cars are covered in the section Vehicles in Finland.

Vehicle tax

Persons with disabilities can be exempted from basic vehicle tax without application if the vehicle register contains a record of refund of car tax referred to in section 50 or 51 of the Car Tax Act. If a person has a so-called disabled parking permit, he or she can be granted exemption on application.

Exemption must be re-applied for if you change your car and when the validity of the parking permit expires. Exemption from basic vehicle tax can be granted on the basis of the same person’s disability for one vehicle at a time only. Even if your application is pending, vehicle tax must still be paid on the due date. If the application is approved, the tax paid is refunded. More information on the Traficom website.

Refund of car tax

Based on section 51 of the Car Tax Act, the car tax included in the price of a car being registered in Finland for the first time can be refunded to a person with a disability either wholly or partly. The refund is granted based on the nature and severity of the applicant’s disability and there is an upper limit to the benefit. The nature and severity of a disability are always determined by a physician.

Car tax relief

In some cases car tax can be refunded based on a disability as so-called car tax relief. Finnish Customs can grant relief on car tax based on section 50 of the Car Tax Act. Then tax can be refunded for particularly weighty reasons either wholly or partly as deemed reasonable. Car tax has been refunded as tax relief e.g. to parents for whom a car is essential to transport a severely disabled child.

Support for the purchase of a car

Based on the Act on Disability Services and Assistance, support may be granted for the purchase of a used or new car. Compensation can be obtained for half of the actual costs of the car. Deductions are made for refunded car tax, any allowance received for an old car as well as any other support for the car. You can claim support for the purchase of a car even if you have not had car tax refunded.

Under legislation on motor vehicle liability insurance and accident insurance, only a working severely disabled person can get support for the purchase of a car.

Modification of cars

Based on the Act on Disability Services and Assistance, essential modifications necessitated by a disability are reimbursed (e.g. controls, power steering, swivel seat, wheelchair hoist). Modifications are reimbursed in full, but within the available budget, since this is not a so-called subjective right. Based on the Act on Disability Services and Assistance, half of the costs of equipment to facilitating use of the car can also be reimbursed (e.g. extra heater).

Motor vehicle liability and accident insurers also reimburse costs for vehicle modifications. More information on insurance in the section Insurance in Finland.

Parking permits for persons with disabilities

Ajovarma grants parking permits for persons with severe disabilities or for transporting a person with a disability. Apply for the permit at Ajovarma’s office or online from Traficom.

Discounted motor vehicle liability insurance

Some insurance companies offer discounted motor vehicle liability insurance for persons with disabilities. Check this with your insurance company. 

How a disability or illness affects employment

If you need modifications to be carried out at your work due to a disability or illness, you can get help from the TE office. The TE office will help you if you need information on job opportunities and how to keep your job despite a disability or illness.

Employers can also get subsidy for arranging working conditions from the TE office so that you can stay in your old job despite a disability or illness or start in a new job. Subsidy for arranging working conditions is applied for by the employer.

Disability subsidies

Based on the Act on Disability Services and Assistance, Kela grants disability subsidies which are designed to help persons living in Finland with disabilities or a long-term illness to cope in everyday life, work or study and to maintain their functional capacity, living at home, rehabilitation and care.

Disability subsidies are generally only paid to persons covered by Finnish social security. Some disability subsidies also require three years’ residence in Finland. Being covered by Finnish social security is considered equivalent to actual residence in Finland. If a person has lived in another EU or EEA country or Switzerland, insurance periods in these countries can also be taken into account in calculating the three-year period. More information from the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela).

Interpreter service for the disabled

If you live in Finland and you have a hearing impairment, hearing and vision impairment or speech impairment, you can if necessary get interpretation from Kela’s interpreter service for the disabled. Using the interpreter service is free of charge. More information from Kela.

How to appeal

Social welfare

If a social welfare customer is not satisfied with the service, assistance, care or treatment they receive, he or she can

  • contact the head of the office that made the decision
  • contact the Social Ombudsman
  • dispute their treatment with the person responsible for the social welfare unit or the  official in charge of social welfare
  • lodge a complaint with the monitoring authority, i.e. the Regional State Administrative Agency, the Parliamentary Ombudsman or the Chancellor of Justice. In some cases the Regional State Administrative Agency may refer the complaint to the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health Valvira.

Persons applying for social welfare services and social assistance are entitled to get a reasoned decision in writing. The decision explains the procedure for appealing. A claim for rectification can be made against a decision by a social welfare officer to the body responsible for social welfare in the municipality within 14 days of notification of the decision. Persons dissatisfied with decisions made by institutions granting benefits, such as Kela or insurance companies, can appeal the decisions to the Social Security Appeal Board, which is the first-instance appeal body.

You have the right to appeal a decision by a municipal body (e.g. social welfare board) to the Administrative Court within 30 days. The right to appeal a decision by the Administrative Court to the highest appeal body, the Supreme Administrative Court, depends on the subject matter of the administrative decision. If it concerns financial support measures or services which a municipality has a special obligation to provide and which a person is entitled to regardless of the municipal budget set aside for them, he or she may appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court without leave to appeal. In this case the appeal period is 30 days from notification of the decision. In cases other than financial support measures or services which a municipality has a special obligation to provide, you may not appeal without being granted leave to appeal by the Supreme Administrative Court, which is not easily obtained.

Parliamentary Ombudsman and Chancellor of Justice

At the national level, the activities of officials and other public-sector employees are supervised by the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice. You can make a complaint to them if you suspect that an authority or civil servant has not complied with the law or their obligations. The Parliamentary Ombudsman or the Chancellor of Justice may not, however, change or overturn administrative decisions made previously by authorities. They can issue an objection, a reprimand or a warning to the official or initiate a pre-trial criminal investigation.

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Info Norden is the information service of the Nordic Council of Ministers. Here you can find info and tips if you wish to move, work, study, seek support or start a business in the Nordic region.