Social services

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

Social welfare covers promoting social security and wellbeing and taking care of social welfare duties and services in accordance with general and specific legislation. 

Provisions on social welfare and social services are laid down in the Social Welfare Act and special acts on social welfare.

Social services organised by wellbeing services counties

In urgent cases, every person residing in the wellbeing services county has the right to receive social services based on their individual needs in a way that does not jeopardise their right to indispensable care and subsistence.

In other than urgent cases, people have the right to receive adequate social services from the wellbeing services county where they have their municipality of residence.

Social services respond to support needs

The wellbeing services counties must organise social services to

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

The need for services is evaluated by making an assessment of the need for services. Everyone has the right to have an assessment of the need for services, unless it is obvious that an assessment is unnecessary. An assessment of the need for services 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
  • Service to promote clients’ financial operating capacity
  • Family work
  • Home services for families with children
  • Home care
  • Support services
  • Housing services (temporary housing, supported housing, communal housing and service housing with 24-hour assistance)
  • Institutional services
  • Services supporting mobility
  • Substance abuse and addiction prevention
  • Special services for people with substance abuse and addiction problems
  • Mental health work and mental health services
  • Child guidance and family counselling
  • Supervision of contact sessions between parents and children
  • Time-off concerning persons who are taking care of their relative or other close person
  • Services of school social workers in student welfare 

Social services organised by the wellbeing services counties on the basis of special legislation include social services for persons with disabilities, special care services for people with intellectual disabilities, supplementary and preventive social assistance, child protection, rehabilitative work activities, tasks related to child custody and rights of access, family work and informal care support.

Because of the great amount of services and guiding 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 home services for families with children, family work, and child guidance and family counselling.

The social services needed by older people include home care, informal care support, services supporting mobility and various housing services.

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 public services. The wellbeing services counties may also purchase services from private service providers.

24-hour social services provide help at all hours

The wellbeing services counties 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 Telephone:0295163204   Email Address: