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Ministry of Social Affairs and Health appoints working group to prepare reform of Act on Social Assistance

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 28.5.2020 16.28 | Published in English on 28.5.2020 at 18.26
Press release 132/2020

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has appointed a working group charged with preparing the reform of the Act on Social Assistance. Its term will run until xx May 2021. The goal of the work is to clarify the structure of social assistance and its links with social welfare.

The working group will propose amendments to the legislation on social assistance and social welfare with the aim of strengthening the role of social assistance as a last-resort form of financial support within the social welfare system.

When drafting its proposal, the working group must take into account the ongoing work to restructure the organisation of healthcare and social welfare services, in which these services will be transferred to counties in the future. Within the renewed structure of social welfare, social assistance must act as an integral tool for social work and as part of the full range of social welfare support and services.

The working group is also expected to make proposals on how the link between primary benefits and the implementation of social assistance can be made to function as smoothly as possible.

Likewise, proposals are needed on how we can make the most of electronic systems and the information gathered from the benefit system in the granting of social assistance.

Transfer of processing of basic social assistance to Kela and report of legal working group in the background

The responsibility for processing basic social assistance was transferred to Kela at the beginning of 2017. The responsibility for granting supplementary and preventive social assistance remained with the municipalities.

Social assistance continues to be part of the social welfare system. It is a discretionary form of last-resort financial assistance aimed at securing the minimum necessary livelihood for a person and their family.

The work of the working group is based on the observations presented in the final report of the legal expert working group for social assistance matters appointed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The report will be published at the same time as the appointment of the working group. The working group will highlight issues that need clarification and present aspects that should be taken into account when further developing social assistance.

According to the report, after the responsibility for basic social assistance was transferred under Kela’s autonomous decision-making power, social assistance became disconnected from other decision-making in social welfare services. However, the Act on Social Assistance still regards social assistance in its various forms (basic social assistance, supplementary social assistance and discretionary support) as a single entity.

The challenges related to legislation and implementation are particularly significant in situations requiring cooperation between Kela’s basic social assistance, municipalities’ supplementary and preventive social assistance, and social work.

In the current system, the processing of basic social assistance for clients takes place separately from social work. Challenges arise when clients need more than just financial support to deal with their life situations.

Various studies have been carried out on the implementation of social assistance, and the working group must take these into account in its work. The role of social assistance as part of other social security on the one hand, and as a tool for social work on the other, must be clarified.

The legislative reform is part of the implementation of the Government Programme

The Programme of Sanna Marin’s Government states that the Government will carry out a comprehensive social assistance reform to guarantee sufficient last-resort financial assistance and timely services for people in need of social support.

The reform of the Act on Social Assistance will take into account the links between the other major reforms launched in line with the Government Programme, the ongoing health and social services reform package and the reform of social security to be prepared by a parliamentary committee.

The working group will be chaired by Director Eveliina Pöyhönen from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and will include representatives from key actors in the reform of the Act on Social Assistance.

Inquiries:

Eveliina Pöyhönen, Director, [email protected]
Susanna Rahkonen, Ministerial Adviser, [email protected]
Ritva Liukonen, Senior Specialist, [email protected]