Process of social work

In Finland, wellbeing services counties are mostly responsible for organising social services. A county can organise the service by itself, in agreement with one or more other counties, or procure it from a public or private service provider.   

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Right for self-determination

The right to self-determination means the individual’s right to rule their own life and the right to make decisions on matters concerning oneself. The right to self-determination refers to equality, individual freedom and personal integrity. The right to self-determination is a basic right that belongs to everyone. 

In social welfare activity, the client’s wishes and opinions are to be taken into account in the first place. The client must be given the possibility to take part in and influence the planning and realisation of their services. The same applies to other measures concerning the client’s social services. Issues concerning the client must be handled and decided in a way that takes into account the client’s interest in the first place. Special attention must be paid to respecting the right to self-determination for children and youth in need of special support. 

Supported decision-making and guardianship are also connected to the right to self-determination. The objective of supported decision-making is to urge, encourage and support a person in making decisions and choices concerning their own life. Making choices and decisions requires practice. A legal guardian can be appointed to a person who is unable to handle their own financial affairs, for instance, due to illness. The court can also decide that the legal guardian has the right to also represent their client in other than financial issues.

In some cases, the basic rights of a client may have to be restricted, for example in a situation where the client’s or another person’s health or safety is threatened due to the aggressive behaviour of the client. The premise is that a person’s basic rights can be restricted only in situations particularly regulated in the law and as little as necessary. 

Assessment of the need for services 

The need for services of a person with a disability is to be assessed in order to plan an adequate entity of services for them. A person with a disability can ask for an assessment of the need for services in the social services of the wellbeing services county. In the assessment, the person with a disability and the social worker of the county together go through the client’s life situation and the kind of services and support the client needs. 

A family member or another close person or, when needed, a legal representative, can take part in the assessment. If needed, the means for augmentative and alternative communication or interpretation must be used. 

During the assessment, the legal rights and responsibilities, as well as different options in realising the services, must be explained to the person with a disability. The assessment of the need for services is to be started without delay and carried out without unnecessary delay. Urgent services must be organised immediately. 

Personal service plan 

A personal service plan is prepared based on the assessment of the need for services. It is a written plan for the services and means of support that the person with a disability needs in order to manage in everyday life. The client’s own view must be written in the plan even if it is different from the social worker’s view. 

The authorities have a legal obligation to prepare a service plan when it is not a case of temporary counselling and guidance or when preparing a plan isn’t otherwise manifestly unnecessary. 

Special care program for persons with intellectual disabilities (EHO)

If a person is entitled to services based on the Act on Special Care for the Mentally Handicapped (519/1977, later referred to as the Act on Special Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities), a written special care programme for persons with intellectual disabilities (EHO) is prepared. EHO is a decision that gives the person with a disability the subjective right to the services and means of support that are written in it. The subjective right means that the wellbeing services county is obligated to organise the services regardless of the appropriations that it has allocated for the services in question.

An individual EHO is to be prepared for each person living in the wellbeing services county who is in need of special care for persons with intellectual disabilities. 

Special or general responsibility for organising services 

In the wellbeing services counties, services belong either in the realm of special responsibility for organising services or in the realm of general responsibility for organising services.

Special responsibility for organising services means services to which persons with disabilities have a subjective right. This means that the wellbeing services county always has to grant a service when the applicant meets the conditions specified for getting the service. 

Services in the realm of general responsibility for organising services depend on the appropriations of the wellbeing services county. These services are also granted in consideration of individual needs. However, the service may not be granted if the county has run out of the appropriations allocated for disability services for the year in question. 

Applying for services 

A personal service plan prepared for a person with a disability does not entitle them to be granted the services, but the services must be applied for in the social services of wellbeing services county and a decision must be received. 

The application can be free-form, and it does not need to be written. However, for the legal protection of the applicant and the social worker, it is favourable to apply in written form. Some services can be applied with particular forms that are available in the social services office or on the wellbeing services county’s Internet website. In urgent cases, the county has to make a decision without the service planning process.

A free-form application should include at least what service is being applied for, who the applicant is, and why they need the particular service. It is recommended to explain clearly and in detail how the disability hinders the applicant’s everyday life and how the service applied for would ease the situation. 

Decision and appeal 

The client has the right to receive a written decision on the arrangement for social services. In case of urgent measures, the decision must be done without delay in a way that the client’s right to indispensable care and subsistence are not threatened. 

It is favourable that the wellbeing services county would decide on the indefinite duration of the services if the client’s need for those services is continuous. Continuity is particularly important when it is a question of services that the client necessarily needs. Naturally, the decision is to be changed if the needs of the client change. According to the law, fixed-term decisions can also be made. 

The client can appeal against a decision if they are not satisfied with it. The appeal is to be made in written form, including relevant medical reports, statements and other documents. The appeal is handled in the wellbeing services county. If the client is not satisfied with that decision, they can appeal to the Administrative Court and further to the Supreme Administrative Court if the latter grants them leave to appeal.

The judicial proceedings as such are usually free of charge for the client. If the client uses private sector services, they may have to pay fees for legal services or medical records. The client can apply for public legal aid, which is charged according to the client’s income, or cover expenses with legal expense insurance. 

Client fees 

In general, disability services based on the Act on Disability Services and Assistance (380/1987, later referred to as the Disability Services Act) are free of charge to the client because they make it possible for persons with disabilities to manage in daily activities and they support their participation in society’s activities. This kind of service includes day activity services, personal assistance, special services in service accommodation, rehabilitation guidance, adaptation training and particular examinations. 

Special care for persons with intellectual disabilities is also free of charge, but there is a maintenance fee charged for housing based on the Act on Special Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities. 

For transportation services, the client can be charged no more than the fee charged for public transportation in the area or other comparably reasonable fee. 

Upon reasonable grounds, the fees can be lowered or not charged at all.


Good Life Puzzle 2.0 (2020) (pdf 3,7 MB, Kehitysvammaliitto)
A workbook to support family service planning for families with disabled children