Services and support for people with disabilities
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for promoting the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities, developing their healthcare and social welfare services and providing income security.
People with disabilities have the right to equality, inclusion and non-discrimination, as well as the necessary services and support measures.
- Disability policy (in Finnish)
The principle is that public services are designed to suit everyone and public environments to be accessible. Where the assistance provided by regular services is not sufficient, specialised services, such as housing, assistive devices, transport and interpretation services, are organised.
The aim is to support the work ability, functional capacity and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities. Services and support measures organised by the wellbeing services counties make it easier for people with disabilities to cope in everyday life.
The Online Handbook on Disability Services, maintained by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL,) contains information for professionals in the field to support customer work and decision-making.
Legislation on services for people with disabilities
Services for people with disabilities are governed by the Social Welfare Act, the Act on Disability Services and Assistance and the Act on Special Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
- Social Welfare Act 1301/2014
- Act on Disability Services and Assistance 380/1987 (in Finnish and Swedish)
- Act on Special Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities 519/1977 (in Finnish and Swedish)
The legislation on services for people with disabilities will be reformed. The reformed legislation is to enter into force on 1 January 2025. The key elements of the new Act on Disability Services and Assistance are the inclusion, equality and non-discrimination of persons with disabilities, and individual services that meet the needs of persons with disabilities and support their independent living. New services under the new act are the specific support for inclusion and supported decision-making. In addition, the current services will be extended to certain new groups of people. The services will continue to be mainly free of charge. The scope of the act will be further specified during 2024.
Responsibilities of other authorities in services for people with disabilities
With its research and development activities, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) promotes the ability of people with disabilities to cope independently and the accessibility of planning. In addition, the Institute studies and develops various services, such as assistance, housing and assistive device services, and maintains statistical data.
- Related statistics (THL)
- Statistics on services for people with disabilities (Sotkanet.fi)
- Disability in society (THL, in Finnih)
The National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) and the Regional State Administrative Agencies monitor the implementation and quality of services.
The Advisory Board for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VANE) promotes the rights of people with disabilities and cooperation between disability organisations and public authorities.
Wellbeing services counties have the main responsibility for delivering services to people with disabilities
Wellbeing services counties have the main responsibility for delivering services to people with disabilities. A personal service plan is drawn up for people with disabilities in order to identify the services and support measures they need. The services and support measures organised by different operators include:
- Assistive device services
- Home modifications
- Personal assistance
- Transport services
- Service housing
- Day activities
- Adaptation training and rehabilitation guidance
- Special services for people with intellectual disabilities
- Institutional care
- Family care
- Support for informal care
- Interpretation services
- Financial support
Assistive device services
Assistive devices are available at the health centres or the assistive devices units of the wellbeing services counties. Assistive device services include instruction in the use, replacement and maintenance of assistive devices. These services are free of charge.
Half of the cost of other devices, machinery and equipment which are mainly used for social and recreational purposes can be reimbursed as a disability service from social welfare.
- Assistive devices (Online Handbook on Disability Services), in Finnish and Swedish
- Quality Recommendation for Assistive Device Services (Handbooks of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2003:7)
People with severe disabilities are reimbursed for the cost of converting their home and of purchasing devices and equipment needed for the home.
Under the Act on Disability Services and Assistance, the wellbeing services counties must organise personal assistance for people with severe disabilities. Assistance can be arranged by enabling people with severe disabilities to
- hire a personal assistant,
- purchase assistant services with a service voucher provided by the wellbeing services county,
- receive assistance arranged or purchased by the wellbeing services county.
- personal assistance (Online Handbook on Disability Services), in Finnish and Swedish
The wellbeing services counties provide transport services for people with severe disabilities causing particular mobility problems. Transport services may also include escort services.
Service housing is organised for people with severe disabilities who need regular help in everyday life at different times of the day and night. The recommendation for housing services for people with disabilities supports municipalities in the development of housing for people with disabilities, and wellbeing services counties can utilise the recommendation in the development of housing services. Housing services are also provided based on the Act on Special Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
- Housing (Online Handbook on Disability Services), in Finnish and Swedish
- Quality Recommendation for Housing Services for People with Disabilities (Handbooks of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2003:4)
Day activities support the independent life of people with disabilities and promote social interaction.
Adaptation training and rehabilitation guidance
Adaptation training helps people with disabilities to lead a full life with their disability. Rehabilitation guidance helps people with disabilities to obtain and receive services in society.
Special services for people with intellectual disabilities
Special services for people with intellectual disabilities include
- housing services
- work and day activities
- guidance and advice
- institutional care.
Medical rehabilitation for people with disabilities is organised by health centres and hospitals. The medical rehabilitation and vocational rehabilitation of people with severe disabilities is the responsibility of the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela).
- Rehabilitation (Online Handbook on Disability Services), in Finnish and Swedish
- Medical rehabilitation for people with severe disabilities (Kela)
- Vocational rehabilitation (Kela)
Institutional care guarantees continuous care around the clock.
Family care is 24-hour care in a private home. Family care is organised for people with intellectual disabilities in particular.
Support for informal care
The assistance and care needed by people with disabilities can be arranged through informal care.
People with severe hearing impairments, visual and hearing impairments and speech impairments are entitled to a free interpretation service.
The interpretation service is organised by and applied for from Kela.
The Sign Language Act entered into force on 1 May 2015. Its objective is to promote the realisation of linguistic rights of sign language users.
It is possible to apply for financial support from social welfare services in accordance with the Act on Disability Services and Assistance. Kela’s disability benefits support participation in work or studies and the maintenance of functional capacity, living at home, rehabilitation and care.
- Financial support (Online Handbook on Disability Services), in Finnish and Swedish
- Disability benefits (in Finnish and Swedish)
- Benefits and services for people with disabilities (Kela)
In accordance with the Social Welfare Act, support for employment and work activities are arranged for the employment of people with disabilities. Work activities and work training are also organised for people with intellectual disabilities in accordance with the Act on Special Care for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.