Basic social assistance from Kela as of 1 January 2017
Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, will be responsible for granting and payment of basic social assistance from the start of 2017. Supplementary and preventive social assistance will continue to be granted by the municipality. Since both Kela and the municipalities will have jurisdiction regarding social assistance, the application and granting processes will be defined in more detail from the start of 2017. The President of the Republic is expected to approve the legislative amendments on the matter on 9 December.
The objective of this reform is to improve flexibility, efficiency and cooperation between Kela and the municipalities. Kela will have a stronger responsibility to advise and guide clients and to identify their need for social services. The reform will also highlight the significance of municipal social work. The criteria for granting social assistance or the structure of the benefit will not change.
The legislative amendments clarify the division of duties between Kela and the municipality when handling social assistance applications or transferring applications from Kela to the municipality. The provisions on access to information will apply to Kela in the same way as they currently apply to the municipality.
The client will be able to use the same application to apply for basic social assistance from Kela and for supplementary or preventive social assistance from the municipality. However, Kela will be obligated to transfer a client’s social assistance application to the municipality only when the client specifically requests a transfer. Another condition will be that the application to be transferred also concerns other than the basic amount of social assistance or other than basic expenses. Otherwise the client will have to address the application for supplementary or preventive social assistance directly to the municipality. The amendment highlights the client’s right to self-determination. It will also reduce the number of applications Kela has to transfer to the municipalities.
The municipality can grant social assistance to ensure urgent and absolutely necessary support in cases of emergency, without prior assessment and decision by Kela concerning the client’s eligibility for social assistance. This will ensure that clients can get help in cases of emergency and in special situations even outside Kela’s opening hours.
Transitional provisions will give solutions for decision-making in different situations during the transition period. Revised provisions on electronic reimbursement procedures between Kela and the pharmacies will also enter into force at the turn of the year. Another new amendment is the electronic transfer of housing information directly from landlords to Kela.
The legislative amendments will revise six acts: the act amending the Act on Social Assistance, the Act on Social Assistance, the Act on Rehabilitative Work, the Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration, the Child Welfare Act, and the Act on the Treatment of Aliens and Detention Units.
Susanna Rahkonen, Senior Officer, Legal Affairs, tel. +358 2951 63215