Social services in your everyday life

Last updated: 7 10 2021

About Sweden – an orientation about Swedish society.

This text is about social services in your everyday life. Social services include health care, elderly care and maintenance help if you are unable to work.

An illustrated collage with money, a school class, roads, medical care and elderly care.

The text explains the Swedish welfare society and how social protection works. It describes what forms of help are available if you become ill and unable to work or if you have a child and have to stay home from work. It also describes what social services the municipality provides. 

  • The right to a reasonable standard of living

    Everyone is entitled to a reasonable standard of living. This means, for example, that you are entitled to receive or earn enough money in order for you and your family to be well.

    You have to be able to buy food and clothes, have a home and be able to afford medical care. If you become ill or unemployed, social services have to help you achieve a reasonable standard of living. Children are entitled to social security and to a standard of living that is sufficient to ensure their development.

What is a welfare society?

There are moments in everyone’s life where we need help from the public services. We may become ill or have an accident. You may need an operation, or you may be pregnant and about to give birth. If you get a serious illness, the medical care you need will be expensive. If you lose your job, you may not have enough money to pay for food and rent. In Sweden, we have built a society and public services that ensure that you get help if you need it.

In Sweden, the state takes a great deal of responsibility for you as a resident of the country. You must have a basic income and be able to live well even if you are unemployed, ill, or not earning very much money. Countries that have chosen to pay for welfare with taxpayers’ money are known as welfare states.

In an affluent society everyone has to help out. We can do so in different ways. One way is for all of us to help pay for things that everyone needs, which we do by paying tax. Everyone who lives in the country has to pay taxes to the state. Companies also pay taxes and charges to the state. Taxes in Sweden are high compared with many other countries because we have chosen to have the state pay for schools, medical care and many other things through taxes. 

Social insurance

Social insurance is an important part of the Swedish welfare system. It consists of benefits and allowances that provide financial protection for families and children, for people with functional impairments and elderly people, as well as when people become ill or have an occupational injury. Almost everyone who lives or works in Sweden is eligible for protection through social insurance.

There are different types of social insurance policies. Here are some examples:

  • If you become ill and unable to work, you can be paid sickness benefit.
  • If you need to stay at home to look after your small children, you can be paid parental allowance.
  • When you reach an age at which you can no longer work, you can be paid a pension.

Försäkringskassan and the Swedish Pensions Agency are responsible for social insurance. Försäkringskassan determines eligibility for and pays allowances to families with children and benefits to ill people and people with functional impairments. The Swedish Pensions Agency pays pensions and financial support to elderly people.

The first time you apply for an allowance, Försäkringskassan will carry out an investigation to see whether you are entitled to the allowance.

Example: Sarah received financial assistance when she had injured her back

Sarah works as an assistant nurse in sheltered housing. Her work there sometimes involves heavy lifting, and she often suffers from back pain. Her back problems got worse, until she was unable to work the same number of hours as before because of the pain. Sarah went to a doctor who wanted to put her on sick leave, which would mean that she is off work for a while in order to rest. But that would also mean she lost part of her salary. Sarah contacted Försäkringskassan to ask for help. Försäkringskassan approved her sick leave as well as compensation payments for the days she had to be off work. 

Here are some examples of benefits and financial support you can apply for from Försäkringskassan:

  • Housing allowance

    If you have a low income and are registered in the Swedish population register, you may be entitled to help paying your rent from Försäkringskassan. This is known as a housing benefit. If you have children, you are entitled to apply for a housing benefit. Whether you get the benefit and how much money it will be depends on how many members your family has. It also depends on how high your rent is and how much you earn. If you are between 18 and 28 years old, you may also be entitled to a housing benefit.

    It is important that you inform Försäkringskassan if anything changes – if you get a new job or a higher salary, for example, or if you move in with someone. If you do not inform Försäkringskassan of these changes, you may have to pay back some of your benefit.

  • Benefits and allowances for parents

    There are also benefits for parents and parents-to-be.

    • You are entitled to a pregnancy allowance if you are pregnant and have a job that involves heavy lifting but are unable to change your work tasks.
    • If you have had a child, you are entitled to a parental allowance and temporary parental allowance.

    A parental allowance is money you can be paid in order to be able to stay at home with your child instead of working, looking for a job or studying.

    • Temporary parental allowance is an allowance you can be paid when you are away from work in order to stay at home to look after a sick child. This is known as caring for a sick child (vård av sjukt barn in Swedish, or vab for short).
    • All parents also receive a child benefit. If you have more than one child you will receive a higher child benefit. This is known as a child, benefit supplement. If you have joint custody of your children with their other parent, the two of you share the child benefit.
    • If your child has a functional impairment, you may be entitled to various allowances. Parents with children who have a functional impairment can apply for a child carer’s allowance and an additional cost allowance from Försäkringskassan.
  • Sickness benefit

    You may be entitled to compensation if you become ill and unable to work, look for work or take care of your child. This is known as sickness benefit and is intended to compensate for the money you would have received if you could work, look for work or take care of your child. If you want to receive sickness benefit, you have to report your illness and apply for sickness benefit from Försäkringskassan. If you are studying and get student aid, you can apply to Försäkringskassan to retain your student aid during the period that you are ill.

    The rules for sickness benefit are different depending on if you are unemployed, employed, have your own business, on parental leave or studying.

    When you apply for sickness benefit, you have to provide a doctor’s certificate that explains why you are unable to work, look for work or take care of your child. It is common for doctors to email a doctor’s certificate to Försäkringskassan after your appointment. You can always ask your doctor about how it works.

  • Pension

    Your pension is money you receive when you are older and stop working. Everyone who works and lives in Sweden is entitled to a pension. How much you receive as a pension varies – it depends how high your salary was when you worked and how many years you worked, among other things. Each additional year you work will make your pension higher.

    The Swedish Pensions Agency is a government agency. It makes sure that everyone gets the correct pension. There are different types of pensions – the Pensions Agency can pay you income pension, premium pension and guaranteed pension.

  • Financial support if you have a functional impairment

    If you have a functional impairment you may be eligible for financial support from Försäkringskassan. For example, you may be eligible if you:

    • need personal assistance in order to manage your everyday life
    • are unable to work
    • need technical aids in order to be able to work
    • want to extend your schooling
    • need an adapted car

Benefits for jobseekers

There are also different types of benefits you may be eligible for when you are looking for a job.

Introduction benefit

An introduction benefit is money you may be eligible to receive when you participate in the introduction programme. Once you have enrolled in the introduction programme, you can apply for an introduction benefit from Försäkringskassan. The simplest way to apply is on Försäkringskassan’s website.

Activity grant and development allowance

If you are unemployed and participating in one of Arbetsförmedlingen’s programmes, you may be eligible to receive money from Försäkringskassan. The money you receive is known as an activity grant. Arbetsförmedlingen assesses and determines whether you can have a place on a programme.

A-kassa

Unemployment insurance fund, or arbetslöshetskassa, is usually shortened to a-kassa in Swedish – or fund in English. If you are a member of a fund and you become unemployed, you will receive money from it during the time you look for a new job. There are several different funds you can join – some specialise in a particular occupational group, while others are open to members from any industry or trade. A basic requirement for joining all unemployment insurance funds is that you have worked in Sweden. In order to be entitled to receive money from a fund, you have to fulfil certain conditions. You also have to fulfil certain requirements throughout the time that you are applying for money from the fund. 

How do you apply for benefits and allowances from Försäkringskassan?

There are different kinds of benefits from Försäkringskassan that you may be entitled to. Some benefits, such as child benefit, are standardised, meaning the amount is the same for everyone.

Other benefits you have to apply for. Försäkringskassan will then make an assessment of whether you fulfil the requirements that entitle you to receive the benefit.

You can apply for benefits on Försäkringskassan’s website, but to do that, you need to have an e-ID. If you do not have an e-ID, you can always fill in paper forms instead. In some cases, you need to phone Försäkringskassan and ask them to send you a paper form; in other cases, you can print out the form from the website.

If you need help with your application, visit a service centre. The staff there can help you with matters administered by Försäkringskassan and other government agencies.

If you have difficulties understanding Swedish, you are entitled to request an interpreter when communicating with Försäkringskassan and other government agencies.

There are many things that can influence your right to benefits. For this reason, you have to inform Försäkringskassan, for example, if your income or rent goes up or down, if someone moves in with you, or if you get married. The information is important in order for Försäkringskassan to pay you the correct amount. If you receive money you are not entitled to, you are obliged to pay it back to Försäkringskassan.

If you are not happy with Försäkringskassan’s decision

If you are not happy with Försäkringskassan’s decision, you can request a review. This means that Försäkringskassan takes your view into consideration and makes a renewed assessment of your case. To do this, it considers any new documentation as well as the whole history of your case.

If you are unhappy with Försäkringskassan’s review decision, you can appeal it to the County Administrative Court.

Försäkringskassan’s website has information about how you request a review of a decision and how you appeal a review decision to the County Administrative Court.

How does your municipality work?

Municipalities provide many of the services you have access to where you live. They ensure that there is water when you turn on the tap and that there are schools for children. Municipalities also see to it that elderly and sick people get help when they are unable to manage their everyday lives on their own.

Everyone who lives in Sweden lives in a municipality. In Sweden, the municipalities themselves determine how much their inhabitants should pay in municipal tax and what the money should be used for. This is known as local self-government.

Read here about some of the areas that municipalities themselves are responsible for:

  • Childcare

    Childcare is a collective name for educational activities for younger children. Childcare encompasses such activities as preschools, family day nurseries and after-school recreation centres.

    Those who study, work or are looking for work have the right to leave their children in a preschool in their local area. Preschools are for children aged one to five.

  • Compulsory school

    All municipalities have municipal compulsory schools for children aged between 6 and 16. There can also be independent schools and wholly private schools. If you attend a private school, you have to pay a fee, while municipal and independent schools are financed with tax revenue.

  • Care of the elderly

    Old people often need help with practical aspects of their daily lives. Swedish law gives older people the right to receive help and support from society.

    Many elderly people want to continue living at home. The municipality can help them do this by providing care and services known as home help services. You can apply for home help services in your municipality. Fees for home help services vary depending on which municipality you live in. You can also be provided with aids or other things that make it easier to continue living in your home – examples include a walking frame, a bigger shower cabin and lower thresholds in doorways.

    If it is not possible to keep living at home, it is possible to move into housing that is specially adapted for older people. There are various forms of municipal sheltered accommodation where older people can live in their own apartment. Sheltered accommodation has staff that can help older people with care and services such as food and cleaning.

The social services and social welfare offices

Every municipality has social services that are responsible for ensuring that everyone gets the support and protection they need. This might be nursing, care and services, information, financial assistance and other forms of support.

The social services’ task is to provide various types of help and support to everyone in Sweden – for example, to children and families.

Recipients may be families that do not have enough money. They might be people who have nowhere to live, have addiction problems or are subjected to threats and violence. The help provided by the social services might be counselling, courses for parents, contact persons for young people or for the entire family. A contact person is like an extra friend or relative to talk to or find fun things to do with.

If someone notifies the social services that a child is coming to harm at home, the social services have to investigate the child’s situation.

At the social welfare office, you can get:

  • advice and help for young people and families with children,
  • advice and help if you have addiction problems,
  • advice and help about work and studies, and
  • financial assistance.
  • Advice and help if you are being subjected to violence.
  • Help for elderly people, including home help services. 
  • Help in applying for LSS.

Advice and help if you are being subjected to violence

The municipality is responsible for protecting people who have been subjected to violence. This might include offering sheltered accommodation, for example. The social services can provide support to children, women, and men living with violence in intimate relationships or honour-related violence and oppression.

Municipalities adapt the help they provide to each individual person. You can get help in the form of advice, crisis counselling, sheltered housing, general counselling, financial assistance, support during a legal process, support when contacting government agencies or parenting support.

The Act on Support and Service (LSS, Lagen om stöd och service)

LSS is a law. The Swedish abbreviation LSS stands for Lagen om stöd och service till vissa funktionshindrade or the Act on Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional Impairments.

The law states that if you have a major functional impairment, you are entitled to apply for support in order to be able to lead as full and independent a life as possible. The right to a full and independent life includes the opportunity to work, study or have some other meaningful occupation.

Who can apply for LSS?

  • People with an intellectual disability and people with autism or an autism-like condition.
  • Adults who have suffered a severe brain injury following an accident or a disease.
  • People with other major functional impairments who need a lot of support in order to lead a full life. The functional impairment must not be a result of increasing age.

It is usually municipalities that are responsible for ensuring that LSS is complied with. Municipalities have to assess which people are eligible for support measures, determine their need of support and service, and offer the support and service accordingly.

LSS includes different types of support and service. Available support includes the following: 

  • Counselling and other personalised support.
  • Personal assistance or financial support for such assistance.
  • Companion service.
  • Contact person.

The support may be provided by your municipality, your region or Försäkringskassan. Contact yoiur municipality for information and guidance on LSS.

Financial assistance

Financial assistance is a form of help you can apply for from the social services in your municipality if you have problems with your own maintenance. You can receive financial assistance for your maintenance, in which case it is known as income support. You can also receive financial assistance for other necessary expenses aside from maintenance, such as for childcare, medical care, medicines or dental care.

If your income or housing situation changes – if you start a new job or get a salary raise, for instance – it is important that you inform the social services. If you forget to inform the social services, you may be paid too much in benefits, in which case you will have to pay back money.

Färdtjänst, or municipal transport services

If you have difficulties travelling on your own or by ordinary public transport (buses, trains, the metro or trams), you may be eligible for municipal transport services, or färdtjänst in Swedish. This means you travel by taxi or minibus. Contact your municipality to find out how to apply for färdtjänst.