Most if not all EASPD members are social service providers. In Europe, social services play a crucial role in improving the quality of life and in ensuring social protection for all people.
The 2006 EU Communication on Social Services of General Interest highlights the role such services play in meeting basic EU objectives such as social, economic and territorial cohesion, high employment, social inclusion and economic growth. Yet it also places the organisation of such services as a Member State competence arguing that it is up to Member States “to define […] social services of general interest, and to define the obligations and missions relating to such services and their organisational principles”.
Despite this, there are many EU policies which affect and impact the development of social services at national level. The fact that the EU has also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (see disability-specific section) also places pressure on the EU to ensure that its policies promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities, including when they affect the provision of social services. Although not an exhaustive list, the following areas are of key concern to social service providers at European level.
The European Union proposes law and mechanisms in fields related to employment and working conditions. These laws (working time directive etc), or mechanisms (European Social Dialogue) directly affect social service providers who employ millions of people in Europe (10.106.800 staff in 2016, EC statistics). The recruitment and retention of staff remains a significant problem for many service providers. EASPD therefore fights to ensure that the European Union promotes job creation in the field of social services; without which the sector would struggle to provide high quality social services in the future.
The European Union also affects the funding of social service providers. On the one hand, the EU funds or finances investment into social service providers through European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), direct funds for innovative projects and the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI). The EU also develops laws which affect the national legal frameworks behind the funding of social services in policies such as public procurement, state aid or value added taxes. EASPD works significantly to ensure that these funds and legal frameworks support the investment of public money into quality community based social services.
The European Semester is a mechanism which drives the coordination of macro-economic policies at national level towards achieving the EU-set Europe 2020 targets and the Stability and Growth Pact. This is done primarily through a multi-annual dialogue between the European Commission and Member State governments; which affects national policies. The macro-economic policies discussed focus on public expenditure (including on social services), employment, education and long-term care; all of which are of concern to social service providers. It is also envisaged that the European Semester be integrated more and more with other EU policies areas, including for instance ESIF. EASPD supports its members to get involved in this process and to increase the voice of social services for persons with disabilities into the European Semester process.
What does Quality Social Services mean for EASPD?
In 2010, the Social Protection Committee of the European Union published a Voluntary European Quality Framework aiming to develop a common understanding on the quality of social services within the European Union. The objective of the Framework is to encourage public authorities to adhere to the quality principles it identifies, arguing that this would greatly enhance their capacity to organise and provide high quality social services.
Building on these principles and in cooperation with its members, EASPD has also developed 10 key quality requirements for social services:
- To facilitate full participation, inclusion and equal citizenship;
- To be built around people with disabilities and their changing needs: tailor made – person centred;
- To be community-based and rooted in society;
- To be set-up in, and in close cooperation with, mainstream stakeholders;
- Transition from a holistic approach to a multi-faceted approach;
- Be provided by sufficient, well trained and managed staff;
- Allow the social network (family, etc.) to stay together;
- Be based on stakeholder cooperation;
- Ensure security to all users;
- Allow real and informed choices.
WHAT CAN YOU FIND IN THIS SECTION?
- Job Creation and Decent Working Conditions
- Funding of Services
- European Semester
- Other Social Policy
Thomas Bignal, Policy Officer
+32 2 282 46 19