The modernisation of public social services places an increasing emphasis on evidence with regard to decision-making, service contracting and delivery, and evaluation and audit. The European Commission recognised in the 2013 Social Investment Package (SIP) the need to test social policies and services to favour the most effective. The SIP argues that effective and quality social services is a public investment, hence public social services play a key role in achieving Europe 2020 objectives. For this purpose, ESN created a Panel on Applied Evidence in Social Services, which will consist of one meeting per year between 2014 and 2017 taking place in different formats.

On 09 October 2015, 35 participants from 11 countries participated at the 2015 forum in the facilities of Nesta, the UK’s Innovation Agency. Our aim was to empower public managers to make better use of evidence from social research and practice. For this reason, we reviewed online databases that may be useful for practitioners and assessed how and in what areas these databases can serve practice best. In conjunction with the development of two practice questionnaires, one on practice planning and one on practice evaluation, we created our ‘Toolkit for planning & evaluating social services’.