Social Services Europe and Trade Unions call for action to unlock the job creation potential of the social services sector
The Working Group on Public Services of European Parliament Common Goods and Public Services Intergroup, hosted at the European Parliament on 1st December a public hearing to exchange on the need of unlocking job creation potential of the social services sector. Jean-Paul Denanot MEP (S&D), presiding the meeting, underlined the essential contribution of the social services sector to social cohesion, sustainable and inclusive growth and job creation in Europe. “We need to create the conditions permitting the social services sector’s actors to employ and retain staff and deliver quality services” he said, inviting guest speakers to discuss the challenges faced across the sector.
Jens Nilsson MEP (S&D), Co-Chair of the Social Economy Intergroup, spoke about the importance of creating local partnerships between public authorities, social economy organisations, including NGOs, providing social services to deliver quality social services and sustain growth.
Laura Jones, President of Social Services Europe and Secretary General of EPR, focused on a set of proposals to tackle barriers hindering job creation potential development. "The European Commission must promote the social investment approach, and allow flexibility for such investment when evaluating budgets under the excessive deficit procedure”. Social considerations and quality in public procurement must be promoted to encourage fair competition and ensure good working conditions. The EU’s Structural funds should also be used to support staff development, qualifications and training in social services.
Penny Clarke, Deputy Secretary General of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), denounced the fragmented approach towards social services taken by the European Commission. “Many instruments are available, but at EU-level economic and internal market policies have dominated instead of a focus on quality social services that are embedded in universal, accessible, and affordable systems and that are collectively funded”. She called for a European Action Plan for Elderly Care, building on the Social Protection Committee Report on Long-term Care and the European Voluntary Quality Framework for Social Services of General Interest. One important element of such an Action Plan would be to focus on the conditions for effective recruitment and retention and to create quality jobs in social care.
Social Services Europe and EPSU were pleased to announce that the European Commission has recently agreed to co-finance the PESSIS III project, which aims at developing social dialogue structures for employers in social services at European level.
Sylvie Slangen, Head of UNISOC, Member of CEEP (European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services), remarked that “social profit” organsations have a crucial role in creating job opportunities but their specificities are not recognised. She also called for a stronger role for intersectoral social dialogue in order to effectively improve working conditions and consequently to unlock job creation in the social services sector.
Interventions from the audience converged with the speakers’ perspectives and priorities and validated the following main messages:
Sufficient and sustainable funding must be directed towards the financing of quality services and improving the attractiveness of the sector for current and future employees, in line with a social investment approach.
Both public and private financing must support the general interest orientation of social service provision, rather than a profit-making logic. Adequate public investment into the social services sector will create employment opportunities for both social care workers and groups in the labour market with support from these services.
Social service providers must be supported by pro-active public policy in improving the attractiveness of the sector in order to unlock its important job creation potential and create decent jobs. Improving employment conditions in the sector is essential to recruit sufficient well-skilled and trained staff able to deliver the quality services.
European and national policies must support the social services sector’s efforts to ensure career paths for people working in the sector and work-life balance.
The European Commission should actively promote the development or strengthening of social dialogue structures in the sector, at both national and European level, where appropriate. This would allow employers and employees to collectively discuss and negotiate how challenges related to the attractiveness of the sector – such as pay and working conditions, health and safety at the workplace or professional training and career development – can best be addressed.