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Social assistance

Social assistanceSocial assistance is a last-resort form of income security. It is usually granted for a month at a time, and it is based on the client's essential expenses.

The assistance is the amount by which the client's eligible expenses exceed income and assets.

The MSAH is responsible for preparing legislation on income assistance.

The MSAH social and health policy strategy and the government programme emphasise that

  • the incomes of all people in the most vulnerable situations will be improved
  • social assistance and the municipal services and employment services linked to it must become an integrated whole
  • discretionary social assistance will be developed as a preventive tool for social work
  • social assistance guidelines will pay special attention to preventing poverty and social exclusion across generations
  • in order to ensure appropriate support and assistance, social assistance applicants will receive assistance from social workers
  • the continuing reduction of red tape linked to social assistance applications and ensuring the functioning of handling guarantees for unemployment benefits and social assistance.

Forms of social assistance

  • basic social assistance
  • supplementary social assistance and
  • preventive social assistance

Basic social assistance

The basic social assistance is based on the basic amount which is defined in the Act on Social Assistance and adjusted annually by the national pension index. In 2015, the full basic amount was EUR 485.50.

The expenses to be covered by the basic amount include

  • food
  • clothing
  • minor health care costs
  • expenses on personal hygiene and cleanliness of the home
  • use of local transport
  • subscribing to a newspaper
  • a TV licence
  • use of a telephone
  • hobby and recreational pursuits

In addition to the basic amount, basic social assistance is granted for housing costs, such as rent or maintenance charge, water rate, heating, electricity bill and home insurance premium as well as health care cost that are higher than minor costs.

Suplementary social assistance

Supplementary social assistance covers special expenses such as

  • child day care costs
  • additional housing expenses (such as removal expenses)
  • costs incurred by special needs or circumstances

Preventive social assistance

The municipalities grant also preventive social assistance the grounds for which the municipalities get to decide. The purpose of preventive social assistance is to further a person's or family's independent living as well as to prevent social exclusion.

It can be granted for instance for measures to alleviate difficulties as a result of over-indebtedness or a sudden deterioration of the financial situation.

Who is eligible?

Social assistance is available for a person or family whose income and assets are not sufficient to cover the essential expenses of everyday life. It can also be granted to support independent living as well as to prevent social exclusion.

Where to apply for social assistance?

Social assistance is applied at the social services office of the municipality. In urgent cases, it is possible to apply for social assistance also at the social services office of the temporary municipality of residence.

How long does it take to get a decision on social assistance?

The decision on social assistance must be given at the latest on the seventh weekday from receipt of the application. In urgent cases the decision must be made on the same weekday or at the latest on the following weekday. The applicant must be provided an opportunity to discuss personally with the social worker or social advisor at the latest on the seventh weekday following the day when the applicant asked for it.