Social services

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for Finland’s social policy and prepares legislation on social welfare.

Social welfare includes social services and related support services as well as other measures social welfare professionals adopt to promote and maintain the functional capacity, social wellbeing, safety and inclusion of individuals, families and communities.

Social services organised by municipalities

In emergency situations people have the right to receive social services in the municipality they are staying in based on their individual needs in a way which does not endanger their right to receive indispensable subsistence and care.

In all other situations people receive the social services they need from their municipality of residence.

Social services respond to support needs

Municipalities must organise social services

  • to support people in coping with everyday life
  • to provide housing-related support
  • to give financial support
  • to prevent social exclusion and to promote inclusion
  • to respond to need for support caused by interpersonal and domestic violence or other forms of violence and abuse
  • to respond to need for support in acute crises
  • to safeguard the balanced development and wellbeing of children
  • to respond to need for support caused by alcohol or drug abuse, mental problems or other illness or disability or ageing
  • to respond to other need for support relating to physical, psychological, social or cognitive functional capacity, as well as
  • to support family and friends of those in need for support

The need for services is evaluated by making a service needs assessment. Everyone has the right to have a service needs assessment, unless it is obvious that an assessment is unnecessary. A service needs assessment must be started at once and completed without undue delay. Urgent services must be organised immediately.

A social welfare client is also entitled to have their own worker.

General social services under the Social Welfare Act include

  • Social work and social guidance
  • Social rehabilitation
  • Family work
  • Home services and home care
  • Informal care support
  • Housing services
  • Services in institutions
  • Services supporting mobility
  • Mental health and substance abuse services
  • Child guidance and family counselling
  • Supervision of contact sessions between parents and children

Municipal social services provided on the basis of special legislation include, among others, social services for persons with disabilities, special care services for people with intellectual disabilities, supplementary and preventive social assistance, child protection, rehabilitative work activities, conciliation in connection with child custody and rights of access, family work and informal care support.

Because of the great amount of services and steering legislation, services are often grouped according to the lifecycle model into services for families with children, services for adults and services for older people even if they are based on the same legislation.

Services that benefit families with children include, among others, home services, family work and child guidance and family counselling.

The social services needed by older people include, among others, home services, informal care support, services supporting mobility and institutional care.

The support needs of people with disabilities are primarily met by general health and social services, and if their help is not adequate, the right to special services is determined.

Private social welfare

Social services provided by companies and organisations supplement municipal services. A municipality or joint municipal authority can also purchase services from private service providers.

24-hour social services provide help at all hours

Municipalities are also responsible for 24-hour social services, which are organised to ensure urgent and necessary help round the clock.

24-hour social service clients are all people who urgently need care, security and help, such as children without care, young people with problems or older people whose condition deteriorates suddenly.

Among others, emergency accommodation, financial support and other necessary services, as required, are also organised by 24-hour social services.

The immediate assistance of 24-hour social services is free of charge to the client.

Further information

Virva Juurikkala, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Social Affairs 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Department for Clients and Services in Healthcare and Social Welfare / APO, Service System Unit / PAL 0295163204