The distinction between social assistance in the narrow sense (or financial social assistance) and social assistance in the broader sense is a result of the social protection system.
Financial social assistance guarantees a minimum standard of living and is only granted when the other social protection measures prove insufficient. It is the last safety net in the social protection system and corresponds to social assistance in the narrow sense.
Other benefits precede social assistance: social insurances that insure against such risks as old age, disability or unemployment and social benefits paid by the cantons when social insurance benefits are not enough. The latter are paid in relation to the financial needs of the person concerned; they are means-tested.
The list of means-tested social benefits gives an overview of the support available in each canton.