Building on its Statement on the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan of 4 May, Social Services Europe calls upon the national governments and the representatives of the European Parliament and European Commission to join forces for an inclusive, socially just, rights-based and sustainable recovery, to endorse the Action Plan and the 2030 headline targets and to commit to ambitious national and EU-level social targets.
With the Action Plan the support for the social service sector needs to be stepped up for it to act as a lever to bring social justice on a par with economic and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, to revamp the current economic, social and ecological system and to put the social agenda on an equal footing with the green and digital agendas. The strategic direction the European Commission has set out with the Action Plan it presented on 4 March and with several initiatives of high relevance for social services sector, can only be realised when this ambition is underpinned by a comprehensive policy design and implementation backed up by adequate public funding in all 27 Member States.
For Social Services Europe, EU policy guidance needs to emphasise the priority to invest in people, in the quality of social services and in leaving no one behind in our societies. Bigger shares from the EU funds and the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and better earmarking would support the recovery in the social services sector and much help the social service providers to effectively fulfil their missions and tasks.
Social Services Europe participated in the EPC Policy Dialogue “Strengthening Europe’s safety net: The role of the European Pillar of Social Rights in the recovery in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic” on 29 April, co-organised with the Coordinated Action on Social Services and COVID-19. The Portuguese EU Council Presidency included it into the programme of the Social Summit as a side event.
At this event, Luk Zelderloo, President of Social Services Europe and Secretary General of EASPD, emphasised that “since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the social service sector has every day proven its capacity to adapt, be innovative and resilient. We had to face very difficult situations for our workforce, in particular the front-line workers, but also the family carers and volunteers”. He continued: “The policy and funding priorities backed up by the Action Plan need to reflect our challenges and include issues such as under-staffing, poor working conditions, under-investment. We need an earmarking of public expenditure and investments for social policy, social inclusion and social services, clearly anchored in the national Recovery and Resilience Plans and in the EU funding instruments. Social Services Europe looks forward to a constructive collaboration with the European Commission and the Member States to realise the joint ambitions.” Luk Zelderloo concluded: “In the last 14 months not a lot of EU money has arrived at the sector. I call on the EC to as soon as possible launch the Social Services Helpdesk. This would help us to revisit and adapt the EU-level funding machinery to the longer existing needs of the social services sector, but also to new needs of social service providers stemming from the COVID-19 crisis.”
Heather Roy, Secretary General of Eurodiaconia and Board Member of Social Services Europe, pointed to the fact that “it is not without irony that in the COVID-19 pandemic some of the most understaffed, under-funded and under-recognised sectors became crucial – this is also true for the social services sector. The COVID-19 crisis made obvious that social services are essential for the well-being of people and that they need to be agile, not fragile – whereas in reality in the last 14 months since March 2020 they had to struggle to survive and adapt, as a rule without sufficient public support.” She continued by highlighting that “social service providers would like to see the key role social services play for social cohesion and social inclusion/integration fully recognised – and also financially supported by governments at different levels and by the public authorities.” Heather Roy reiterated a triple call: “What social service providers want is a supportive ecosystem! We need more disaggregated data in and beyond the Social Scoreboard, including on selected vulnerable groups and on services. We also have to be fully involved in the design, implementation and monitoring of policies within the EU MS and at EU level!” She finally proposed to discuss in 2022 an Action Plan for Social Services as one concrete and sector-specific follow up to the EPSR AP.