Licensing and registration of private social service providers 

Private providers of social services must have their details entered into Finland’s national register of private social welfare and health care providers. Depending on the circumstances, registration takes place either separately or in connection with licensing. 

Private provision of social services on a 24-hour basis requires a licence. Other social service providers simply need to register. This page explains firstly the licensing process and then the registration process.

Licensing

All private providers of 24-hour social services need to have a licence. Examples of 24-hour social services include supported living facilities, substance abuse rehabilitation centres, child welfare institutions and family shelters.

Providers of other than 24-hour social services simply need to register. For more information about registering, see “Registration process” below.

Service providers can be companies, foundations or non-governmental organisations.

Private social service providers must have access to suitable premises and equipment. The premises must be suited to the treatment and other care of the customers from the perspective of health and otherwise. Service providers must employ enough staff considering the nature of their services and the number of customers. 

It is also the service provider’s responsibility to appoint a person to oversee the facility and ensure that the services provided satisfy the relevant requirements. The person in charge must have a relevant university degree, experience of the industry and management skills.

Only service providers whose premises satisfy the aforementioned requirements and who can be deemed capable of meeting their financial obligations can be licensed. Special conditions relating to the volume of services, the number of staff, the premises, equipment, tools and procedures can be added to licences to ensure the safety of customers. Once a licence application has been approved, the competent Regional State Administrative Agency enters the licensee and their premises into the national register of private social welfare and health care providers. 

You must apply to have your licence amended if you introduce material changes to the services that you provide. Examples of material changes include moving to new premises, expanding your business and significant changes in the number or structure of your human resources. You need to apply to have your licence amended before you make these kinds of material changes.

You also need to let the authority that originally issued your licence, i.e. either your nearest Regional State Administrative Agency or the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health, know in writing if you replace the person whom you have appointed to oversee your operation or if you decide to close down a facility.

Your own information also needs to be kept up to date in the register. You need to let the competent authority know of, for example, changes in your contact persons or contact information or the appointment of a new Managing Director.

If you replace the person whom you have appointed to oversee your operation, the competent authority will need to determine whether the new person satisfies the requirements, i.e. has a relevant university degree, experience of the industry and sufficient management skills. The competent authority will enter the details of the new appointee into the register of private social welfare and health care providers once their competence has been verified.

Applying for a licence

If you only provide services in one region, you can apply for your licence through the Regional State Administrative Agency. The National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health is the competent licensing authority if

  • you operate in two or more regions or
  • you are applying to expand your business into a second region.

You cannot begin to provide services until you have been issued a licence.

You need to apply for a new licence if your business ID changes as a result of, for example, business restructuring. You can contact either the competent Regional State Administrative Agency or the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health, depending on the geographic scope of your operation, to ask whether your new facility is likely to qualify for a licence before you apply.

You can submit your application and your supporting documents

  • online. A link to our online customer service portal is provided at the bottom of this page.
  • by post or by email to the registry of the Regional State Administrative Agency in whose jurisdiction the facility that you want licensed is located. A link to the contact information of Regional State Administrative Agencies’ registries is provided at the bottom of this page.

You can use the online customer service portal for private social welfare and health care providers to apply for a licence or to have your licence amended and to report changes in your information. You can use the same customer service portal regardless of whether the competent licensing authority in your case is the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health or your nearest Regional State Administrative Agency. 

However, if your operation does not require a licence and you simply need to register as a service provider, you cannot use the online customer service portal but must instead contact the Social Services Department of the local authority in which you intend to provide services.

Your licence application must be accompanied by information about each of your facilities, the services that you intend to provide, the number of customers that you have the capacity to serve and the number of staff you employ. You can submit your application along with the information about your facilities even if you do not yet have all of the other required documents. However, you cannot be licensed until all the required documents have been supplied.

Licence applications take two months on average to process. However, we cannot issue your licence until all the required documents have been supplied.

The processing fee includes entering your details into the national register of private social welfare and health care providers. The amount of the fee is based on laws and decrees regulating charges payable to the state.  

In 2021, the licensing fee for new service providers is EUR 3,000 if the form is submitted by online service. Adding another facility costs EUR 2,250 if the form is submitted by online service. Regional State Administrative Agencies need to inspect service providers’ premises before a licence can be issued, and a fee of EUR 1,500 is payable for the inspection . With the inspection fee added to the licensing fee, the total cost of a new service provider’s licence is EUR 4,500 if the form is submitted by online service. The fees may change from one year to the next.

1. Send your licence application to the competent Regional State Administrative Agency.

2. The Regional State Administrative Agency will assign an officer to handle your case. Your case handler will also be your contact person.

3. Your case handler will contact you to ask for any additional information that they may need to process your application, to arrange a suitable time for an inspection of your premises and to keep you up to date on the process otherwise.

4. Fill in the pre-inspection form.

  • The Regional State Administrative Agency will send you a pre-inspection form to complete in preparation for the inspection. You need to send it back by the deadline given, before the inspection.

5. In most cases, the Regional State Administrative Agency will need to conduct an inspection of your premises.

  • This can be done in person or based on documents only. Your case handler will determine which way the inspection should be conducted in your case. We prefer to coordinate our inspection with the inspection carried out by the Social Services Department of the local authority in which your premises are located. If the two inspections cannot be conducted at the same time, two separate inspections will need to be performed. Please try to accommodate for both inspections to be carried out at the same time.
  • The Regional State Administrative Agency’s inspection consists of
    • a tour of your premises,
    • a review of the information and documents relevant to your licence application,
    • the inspector’s providing you with advice regarding your pre-inspection form, and 
    • the inspector’s adding their comments to the information provided in your form.

6. The competent Regional State Administrative Agency makes a decision on your application and lets you know whether or not you qualify for a licence.

7. If you disagree with the Regional State Administrative Agency’s decision, you can appeal it. 

  • Appeal instructions will be enclosed with the decision.

Registration

If your services are not provided on a 24-hour basis, you simply need to register as a private social service provider. Service providers can be companies, foundations or non-governmental organisations. 

You need to let each of the local authorities in which you operate know in writing before you begin to provide services there, if you make any material changes to your services or if you decide to discontinue your business. The local authorities forward your notices to the competent Regional State Administrative Agency along with their own assessment of your circumstances, and the Regional State Administrative Agency decides whether or not to register you on that basis.

Examples of social services that can be provided by registered service providers include services delivered in customers’ own homes and other non-institutional social services such as support services for families. If you apply for a licence for producing 24-hour social services at the same time, you can use the same application form to register also the services that do not operate on a 24-hour basis.

Private social service providers must have access to enough competent staff considering the nature of the services provided and the number of customers. The requirement must be satisfied separately for each cost centre. A cost centre in this context can be, for example, a team that delivers services in customers’ homes or, in the case of services provided across a wide geographic area, an individual base from which services are delivered in a specific area.

Any premises on which services are provided must be sufficiently spacious and suited to the purpose. However, providers of non-institutional social services, such as services delivered in customers’ own homes, do not need to have designated premises.

Each cost centre must also have a designated person to oversee the operation and ensure that the services provided satisfy the relevant requirements. The person in charge must have a relevant university degree, experience of the industry and sufficient management skills. The area served by each cost centre as well as the service portfolio and the number of staff must not be excessive considering the ability of the person in charge to genuinely ensure the standard of service and customers’ safety.

Local authorities issue opinions on service providers’ ability to satisfy the registration criteria for the competent Regional State Administrative Agency, including 

  • whether their services comply with legal requirements, 
  • whether their premises are suited to the operation in question, 
  • whether the person in charge has enough experience of the industry, sufficient management skills and suitable training, 
  • whether the responsibilities of the person in charge are reasonable and manageable, and
  • whether the number and structure of the service provider’s human resources is compatible with the proposed operation. 

Only service providers whose premises satisfy the aforementioned requirements and who can be deemed capable of meeting their financial obligations can have their details entered into the national register of private social welfare and health care providers. The decision as to whether or not a service provider satisfies the registration criteria rests with the competent Regional State Administrative Agency.

You need to let the competent authority know of any material changes in your operation. Examples of material changes include moving to new premises, expanding your business and significant changes in the number or structure of your human resources. 

The competent authority in these cases is the Social Services Department of the local authority in which you operate. Adding new social services to your registered service portfolio also counts as expanding your business. You need to notify all the local authorities in which you intend to provide such new services.  

You need to let the competent Regional State Administrative Agency know in writing if you replace the person whom you have appointed to oversee your operation or if you decide to close down a facility. The information that the Regional State Administrative Agency and local authorities hold about you also needs to be kept up to date. You therefore need to report, for example, changes in your contact persons or contact information or the appointment of a new Managing Director.

If you replace the person whom you have appointed to oversee your operation, the competent authority will need to determine whether the new person satisfies the requirements. The competent authority will enter the details of the new appointee into the register of private social welfare and health care providers once their competence has been verified.

Filing notices

You need to notify the Social Services Department of the local authority in which you intend to provide services in writing before you can provide private social services. If you intend to operate in multiple local authorities, you need to let each of the local authorities know in advance. The local authorities forward your notices to the competent Regional State Administrative Agency along with their own assessment of your circumstances, and the Regional State Administrative Agency decides whether or not to register you and your services on that basis. It is the Regional State Administrative Agency’s job to determine whether or not you satisfy the registration criteria. If you do qualify, your details will be added to the national register of private social welfare and health care providers.

Please note that support services delivered in people’s homes are not registered through Regional State Administrative Agencies, and providers simply need to notify the Social Services Department of the local authority in which they intend to operate. 

Providers who apply for a licence to provide private social services from the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health or the competent Regional State Administrative Agency can get their services that do not require a licence registered at the same time.  However, in such circumstances, the opinion issued by the Social Services Department of the competent local authority for licensing purposes must also cover any services for which a licence is not required.

If your business ID changes, you need to re-register. Business ID is one of the key pieces of information held in the register of private social welfare and health care providers. 

We have prepared a special form for registering as a private social service provider.

Your registration notice must be accompanied by the following supporting documents: 

  • up-to-date evidence that your business has been entered into the Trade Register or a copy of your business registration certificate 
  • if you are trading as a company, a non-governmental organisation or a foundation, a copy of your articles of association or rules 
  • a mission statement explaining your business concept and the scope of your operation and providing information about your suppliers and customers and the structure of your human resources
  • a copy of the degree certificate(s) of the person in charge of the operation and evidence of their work experience (an official record of their work history, education and other merits or copies of reference letters) 
  • information about how you intend to keep records of your customers (e.g. a privacy statement) 
  • an opinion from the Social Services Department of the competent local authority or strategic partnership (the correct person to draft the opinion can usually be identified by visiting the website of the competent local authority’s Social Services Department or by contacting the local authority’s registry)
  • criminal record clearance certificates for any individuals not employed by you who will be working with children (an officer from the competent local authority’s Social Services Department can also perform the necessary checks and include any relevant information in the local authority’s opinion)

If you have business premises, you also need to provide

  • an up-to-date layout of your premises and information on how different spaces will be used,
  • an emergency evacuation plan and an evacuation safety assessment report,
  • an opinion from your local rescue department, and
  • an opinion from the competent health protection authority or confirmation from the competent health protection authority that you have submitted any required notices under the Finnish Health Protection Act.

Details about your services will be entered into the national register of private social welfare and health care providers once the competent Regional State Administrative Agency has received all the required documents, provided that you and your services satisfy the registration criteria. 

The processing fee includes entering your details into the national register of private social welfare and health care providers. The amount of the fee is based on laws and decrees regulating charges payable to the state.  

In 2021, the registration fee for new service providers is EUR 670. Adding another local authority to the geographic scope of your operation costs EUR 150. The fees may change from one year to the next.

1. Send your registration form and supporting documents to the Social Services Department of your local authority (via the local authority’s registry, for example).

  • The local authority may ask you to provide further information. Your local authority’s Social Services Department will issue an opinion on the information you have provided and, for example, the suitability of your premises. 

2. The local authority forwards your registration form and supporting documents along with its opinion to the competent Regional State Administrative Agency. 

3. The competent Regional State Administrative Agency may ask for further information from you or the local authority. 

4. The competent Regional State Administrative Agency makes a decision on your registration notice and lets you know whether or not you qualify for registration. 

5. If you disagree with the Regional State Administrative Agency’s decision, you can appeal it. 

  • Appeal instructions will be enclosed with the decision.

Frequently asked questions

Service providers have a legal duty to comply with their licence or registration notice. It is the service provider’s responsibility to ensure that they employ enough competent staff to adequately serve their customers.

Licensed service providers will have the minimum number of staff they must employ in each facility specified in their licence. 

Read more about quality assurance of social services.

To find out whether a service provider is licensed, you can either call or email the Regional State Administrative Agency in whose jurisdiction the service provider operates. Service providers themselves can check the information held about them in the register of private social welfare and health care providers via our online customer service portal.  

If you provide services on a 24-hour basis and you introduce material changes to your operation, you need to apply to have your licence amended. Opening a new facility therefore requires an amended licence. Depending on the geographic scope of your operation, you can apply to have your licence amended through either your nearest Regional State Administrative Agency or the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health.

If your services are not provided on a 24-hour basis, you need to notify each of the local authorities in which you operate before you make any material changes to your services. You therefore need to file a notice before you can expand your operation into a new local authority. You also need to let the competent local authority or authorities know before you add any new services to your service portfolio in their jurisdiction(s). 

First of all, you can contact the Social Services Department of the local authority in which you intend to operate. You can also call or email the competent Regional State Administrative Agency for advice and guidance. If you do not know whom to turn to, send your enquiry to the registry of your nearest Regional State Administrative Agency. A link to the contact information of Regional State Administrative Agencies’ registries is provided at the bottom of this page.

Social service providers do not normally need a health care licence. Licences issued to social service providers and the registration of residential service providers also cover the provision of some health care services. For residential services to be of a sufficiently high standard, it is vital that they include at least some of the health care services that the customers also require, such as pharmacotherapy.

A separate health care licence is required if a residential service provider offers any of the following health care services: 

  • patient-controlled analgesia pumps 
  • intravenous medication administration  
  • intravenous fluid therapy 
  • therapeutic injections of controlled drugs 
  • substitution therapy  
  • vaccinations for which a charge is payable (that are not covered by the contract between the local authority and the residential service provider on vaccinations to be given to customers of the residential facility)

A health care licence is also required for any provision of health care services (such as home-based nursing) to customers outside of a residential social service facility. 

Contact information of Regional State Administrative Agencies’ registries

Links to legal texts

Act on Disability Services and Assistance (380/1987) (in Finnish)

Child Welfare Act (417/2007) (in Finnish)

Mental Health Act (1116/1990) (in Finnish)

Substance Abuse Treatment Act (41/1986) (in Finnish)

Act on Service Vouchers in Social and Health Services (569/2009) (in Finnish)