Social assistance in Finland

Toimeentulotuki Suomessa
On this page you will find information on social assistance in Finland and social assistance granted to foreigners living in Finland.

Social assistance is last-resort financial support in social security. You should primarily try to secure your livelihood in other ways like earned income, savings, primary benefits or by other means 

You may be entitled to essential financial support in the form of social assistance if you reside in Finland and your income and assets or those of your family are not sufficient to cover your essential everyday expenses.

How is social assistance made up?

Social assistance consists of three components:

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

Basic social assistance is granted by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela). Supplementary and preventive social assistance are the responsibility of the wellbeing services counties offices.

Are you entitled to social assistance?

Entitlement to basic social assistance is determined based on the nature of your stay and what support you need.

Basic social assistance may be available to individuals and families whose income and assets do not cover their essential daily expenses. Kela assesses the nature of your stay based on an overall case-by-case assessment. Read more on Kela’s website.

If your stay is considered to be temporary in nature, essential financial support may be granted in the form of vouchers for purchasing food and essential prescription medicines. If your stay is permanent, expenses may be evaluated more broadly when determining entitlement to support.

In addition to basic social assistance, you may be entitled to supplementary and preventive social assistance, which are the responsibility of the wellbeing services counties. Granting assistance does not depend on whether you are entitled to basic social assistance. Instead, your financial situation is taken into account as it is. Supplementary social assistance is meant for special needs or circumstances and preventive social assistance is designed to support autonomy and prevent marginalisation. Read more on the website of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

How much social assistance can you get?

Basic social assistance is means-tested financial assistance provided by Kela. Entitlement to basic social assistance is determined by a legally defined  monthly calculation.

Entitlement to assistance is decided based on a calculation of income, assets and legally defined reasonable expenditure. The amount of basic social assistance is affected by your and your family’s net disposable income and assets. Net income means income with tax deducted.

The expenditure taken into account in basic social assistance consists of a basic component and other basic expenditure. The basic component is a fixed sum for essential everyday expenses, for example food and clothes. Other basic expenses are taken into account to a reasonable extent, including housing expenses and public healthcare expenses other than those included in the basic component, for example health centre customer charges and copayments for prescription medicines. Read more on Kela’s website.

Your wellbeing services county may also grant supplementary or preventive social assistance. Supplementary social assistance may be granted for expenditure for your or your family’s special requirements or circumstances that are considered necessary to secure your income or promote autonomy. Preventive social assistance may be granted for example to secure your housing or to alleviate difficulties caused by over-indebtedness or a sudden deterioration of your financial situation. Read more on Kela’s website in the section Overview of social assistance.

How do you apply for social assistance?

Basic social assistance is claimed from Kela, who decide whether customers are entitled to basic social assistance. You can send your application and attachments either electronically in OmaKela or print it out and mail it. Read more on Kela’s website. 

If your application covers expenses other than items coming under the basic component or other basic expenses, ask Kela to transfer your application for these expenses to your wellbeing services county. You can also apply for supplementary or preventive social assistance directly from social services in your wellbeing services county.

Can you get assistance as soon as you move to Finland?

Under the Act on Social Assistance, Nordic citizens are in principle entitled to basic social assistance like other permanent residents of Finland as soon as they arrive in the country. Any social security received from the country of departure is checked and taken into account in assessing entitlement to assistance. 

However, if you reside in Finland you are if necessary entitled to at least the essential component of basic social assistance, i.e. for essential food and prescription medicine expenses if you are unable to cover these any other way.

Can you get assistance paid to another country?

Entitlement to social assistance is limited to expenses incurred while in Finland.

More information

Who can answer questions?

  • Kela

For questions about supplementary and preventive social assistance, contact the social services office in your municipality of residence.

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