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Public procurement and the relevant EU-level legislation in place – as part of a sustainable and supportive legal, regulatory, financial, and quality EU-level framework for social services – is of high relevance for our members; and this for more than a decade already.

In the last 10 to 15 years, SSE has regularly and intensively worked on this topic with the aim to influence Directive 2014/24/EU and the EC Guidance on Socially Responsible Public Procurement (SRPP):
• SSE had also issued an assessment of the 2014 Procurement Directive and prior to this had made proposals to the European institutions on the scope of the directive being revised and relevant wording (2012).
• SSE contributed to the EC Consultation on the scope and structure of a EC Guide on Socially Responsible Public Procurement (February 2018). Based on input from its members, in 2019 we compiled examples for the use of public procurement.
• On 6 December 2021 SSE published its Statement on EC Guide "Buying Social". In this Statement, SSE made an overall positive assessment of the Guide, but also critisised, e.g., that the Guidelines

  • do not mention that there are proven, tested and long-functioning alternatives across the EU MS to public procurement, including for the social services sector. On p. 55 the EC Guide lists in-house provision, the cooperation of different public buyers and (a specific constellation for) the award of grants, but unfortunately omits to mention alternative modalities to purchase and finance social services by public authorities and to proceed to the selection of service providers. SSE thinks of, a) the more general use of public grants based on contracts with service providers having the authorisation, accreditation, or license by the relevant public authority to deliver social services, b) triangular contractual relationships between a funding agency, a provider and a user of social services and c) user-based modalities (personal budgets; service vouchers).

  • are silent about the fact that in order to have sustainable ways of organising, providing, and funding social services, all providers need a level-playing field, also as they need to invest in service infrastructure and qualified personnel and thus incur costs to sustain this infrastructure and to qualify and employ their personnel. This point is essential as in the field of social services, at least in some sub-sectors, it is difficult to fully plan ahead both the precise needs of the (current and future) service users and the exact number of those having those needs for care, support, guidance, education, or training.

• SSE is monitoring and plans to contribute to the initiatives in relation to the use of SRPP as announced by the Social Economy Action Plan (8 December 2021).


SSE there reiterates its conviction that SSE does not believe that public procurement is often the right funding mechanism through which to finance social service provision and has serious doubts regarding the concrete benefits of using public procurement to contract out quality social services within the social economy. SSE also provides evidence on this and explains the reasons in detail in its Statement on the EC Guide “Buying Social” (6 December 2021). Social Services Europe also expresses its wish to engage in an exchange with the Commission Services and interested EU MS with the aim to obtain legal and political recognition for alternative instruments to public procurement (respecting the general principles of EU law such as transparency, non-discrimination/equal treatment and proportionality).

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