Research related to the Social Services and Health Care Division

This page provides instructions on how to proceed when your research or thesis involves units, materials, personnel or clients of the Helsinki Social Services and Health Care Division and requires a permit.

Applying for a research permit from the Social Services and Health Care Division

The Social Services and Health Care Division processes research permits related to the Division’s materials, personnel, or clients. The Division includes three service entities: Family and Social Services, Health and Substance Abuse Services and Hospital, Rehabilitation and Care Services, and the administration that caters to them.

Introduction to the Social Services and Health Care Division 

The Social Services and Health Care Division requires a research permit for all studies, theses and reports that collect or process data concerning the Division’s clients, personnel or materials, regardless of the method for collecting data. A permit is also required for any research concerning our clients who are being treated or residing in outsourced service units.

A staff member of the Social Services and Health Care Division must also apply for a permit if the research is not being carried out solely as an official or work duty but, for example, as a part of the person’s studies. A Division employee must also apply for a research permit for a development project or study to be carried out as an official or work duty if it will utilise client or patient register data or result in an externally published report.

A research permit is not required, for example, when:

  • a person employed by the Social Services and Health Care Division conducts normal development or management research as part of their official or work duties that will not be published outside the Division and does not utilise client or patient data.
  • the research falls under the Finnish Social and Health Data Permit Authority Findata.
  • the data collected is or would be publicly available. Such information includes, for example, information published on the intranet pages of the Social Services and Health Care Division. However, researchers and thesis workers must always ask for their supervisor’s permission to utilise the data.

If you are not sure, inquire in advance whether you need a research permit by emailing opens default mail program)

A research permit may be denied on, for example, the following grounds:

  • The application is incomplete, and no additional information has been received.
  • The research setting is ethically questionable.
  • It is a market study or commercial research, and its objectives do not support the development of the operations of the Social Services and Health Care Division.
  • The subject has recently been studied within the same target group.
  • The Division does not have the necessary data or acquiring it would require an unreasonable amount of work.

Set the data collection in proportion to the level of your research.

Your research and data collection must be feasible without unreasonable efforts from our staff. When planning your collection of data and its scope, consider the level of your research and your research competence. As a rule, the more scientific or nationally/internationally significant your research is, the more extensively it can target the Social Services and Health Care Division (e.g. doctoral dissertations, postdoctoral theses, and studies by scientific and research institutions). The data collection of a bachelor’s thesis should be targeted to the service of a specific unit at the most.

Contact us and agree on the data collection

Contact the unit or office where you plan to conduct your research in advance to establish whether your study is feasible and who would be your contact person (usually the supervisor of your target unit) at the Social Services and Health Care Division. The contact person participates in the planning and implementation of the data collection (e.g., by providing the subjects with an information letter and other necessary material).

Scrutinise the instructions for processing personal data and ethical review

Almost all research on social services and health care involves processing personal data, even when the researcher has no intention to collect personal data. Carefully study the requirements laid down for research in the Data Protection Act (1050/2018)(Link leads to external service) and your organisation’s guidelines regarding data protection. A research permit application must be accompanied by a privacy statement whenever the research involves processing personal data, such as subjects’ signatures on consent forms and interview recordings. Open response fields on a questionnaire also enable the disclosure of personal data. The privacy statement must contain the following information:

  • data controller
  • name of the study
  • grounds for processing personal data
  • the party responsible for the study and their contact details
  • purpose, duration and implementation of the study
  • what personal data is collected and why
  • how personal data is protected
  • rights of the subjects
  • disclosure of personal data to third parties
  • storing and removal of personal data.

A data protection impact assessment must be carried out if the research involves processing special categories of personal data (health data, race or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs or trade union membership, genetic or biometric data, information on sexual orientation) and it is necessary to derogate from the rights of data subjects (the right to rectification of their data, right to erasure of their data, right to restrict processing of their data and right to object to the processing of their data). More information is available at: Impact assessment(Link leads to external service)

If the research requires an ethical review, it must be carried out before applying for the research permit and attached to the application. An ethical review is usually required when studying social services and health care clients or patients who are in a particularly vulnerable position, or in medical research.


If your study involves collecting and utilising register and statistical data extracted from social services and health care client and patient data systems, consider the Act on the Secondary Use of Health and Social Data (552/2019)(Link leads to external service) Secondary use means that register data generated in social services and health care is used for purposes other than the primary purpose for which the data was originally saved in the client register. The Act covers all stages of data processing.

If the research requires register data from several different controllers, data stored in the Kanta Services or register data from private social welfare and health care organisers, the Finnish Social and Health Data Permit Authority, Findata is responsible for issuing the research permit. Use the Findata application assistant to check where you need to apply for your permit.

If your research only requires data from the City of Helsinki Social Services and Health Care Division’s register, a permit for applying data will be issued by the City of Helsinki. Establish the availability and costs of the data with your contact person and contact the Statistical Services Unit of the Social Services and Health Care Division in advance using the data request form:

Data request for statistical information

For more information on statistics and register data, please contact: opens default mail program)

tel:09 3102 0835(Link starts a phone call)

The data collection method must be provided in the research plan, and it may incur costs for the researcher; these must be established before applying for the research permit.

As of 1 May 2022, client and patient data can only be disclosed to secure operating environments defined by law. Audited secure operating environments are listed in Valvira’s public database of secondary-use environments, TOINI. When applying for a research permit, you must show that you have access to an operating environment listed in the TOINI database when conducting a register study. Further information: Public database of secondary-use environments(Link leads to external service)


You can apply for a research permit using this form:

Research permit application

Accompany your research permit application with:

  1. A research plan detailing your target group, research questions, goals, methods, data collection method, and data analysis. Your plan must indicate how clients or employees will be directed to your study in practice, or how and by whom the register data will be collected and where it will be stored.
  2. An information letter for the subjects.
  3. A consent form (a section confirming the participant’s explicit consent will be added to the beginning of an interview study).
  4. Data collection material (questionnaire, interview frame, description of observation or request for statistical data).
  5. A privacy policy (whenever personal data is processed in research).
  6. A data protection impact assessment if the study involves processing special categories of personal data. The Data Protection Ombudsman must be informed of the impact assessment in writing before the study is started.
  7. When necessary, a statement from the Ethics Committee: in medical research (Medical Research Act 488/1999), a statement from the HUS Ethics Committee or the National Committee on Medical Research Ethics, or in non-medical research, a statement from another Ethics Committee.
  8. In pharmaceutical research, a statement from the Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea.

The processing of a research permit application takes 2–6 weeks. Incomplete applications delay the process.

Submit your research permit application to the City of Helsinki Registry Office. You will receive your research permit decision by post. The decision document will also be sent to your contact person and other parties involved. Decision documents (office-holder decisions) are published on the Social Services and Health Care Division website without appendices.

Helsinki city hall seen from the front view.

City of Helsinki Register Office

Visiting address:
Pohjoisesplanadi 11–13, 00170 Helsinki
Opening hours:

Valid for the time being:
- Mon-Fri 9.00-15.00
- Sat-Sun - Closed
Midsummer Eve: June 21, 2024 - Closed

See details