The development of quality care and support services is based on three main levers:
Perhaps the most important lever is the growing impact human rights have on how social services are developed. At the centre of this is the need to develop services which enable the full participation of persons with support needs; as highlighted by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Individualised support, person-centred planning, co-produced services and the empowerment of individuals and their families are elements which are increasingly at the heart of social service provision. This is without any doubt the way forward.
Another important lever is the actual workers themselves: the millions of dedicated and committed staff working in social care and support. As highlighted by major Social Services Employers’ , “staff is the main asset in social services as it is them who actually enable the provision of care and support”. Social Service providers are in fact the biggest job creators in Europe today with over 1.8 million new jobs created over the past decade. Despite this, challenges are starting to appear as the sector’s employers’ are increasingly struggling to attract young people, from both genders, with attractive jobs and career opportunities. The challenges are clear, too many jobs are being paid below national average wages and often having challenging working conditions. This is a reality we must find solutions to. This is why EASPD has been facilitating the development of social dialogue (Employer and Trade Union negotiations) in the sector over the past few years.
The third essential component to the development of quality social services is the role of public authorities. In most cases, they fund and monitor the provision of social services. At times, they also provide the service themselves. The strong role of public authorities is the very basis of the European welfare system(s). We should be proud of it. Yet, the last ten years have shown a clear trend: public authorities are withdrawing. They are also placing more and more pressure on ensuring that social service providers are providing cheaper services. Over time, cheaper services negatively affect either the quality of the service, the quality of the staff or -often- both.
Everywhere in Europe, social service providers find themselves in the middle of these three levers: providing better quality care and support services, ensuring quality jobs to staff in the sector, whilst being asked to be increasingly cheaper.
The balancing act is increasingly challenging. At some point, it will break. A fundamental re-think is necessary. Do we want a society able to empower persons with support needs, irrespective of their financial means? Do you? If so, let’s engage!
The EU has started to negotiate its next long-term budget, post 2020. EASPD will be working hard to push for a budget which helps to re-balance the three levers. Any ideas? Let us know.
Investment Policy Advisor