The European Social Network (ESN)’s Annual Review highlights our activities in 2020 and the challenges faced by social services throughout a year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on our society.

For social services professionals on the frontline, Covid-19 has brought significant disruption. At ESN we have documented the challenges that social services working with children and families, youth, people with disabilities, the homeless and older people have been facing throughout the year, and how heroically they jumped into action to care for those in need.

Thanks to the support of the European Commission and partners, ESN created and adapted extensive opportunities for mutual learning. We shifted to remote working to protect employees and to 100 per cent online knowledge exchange and knowledge building activities to serve members facing mobility restrictions almost overnight.

We mobilised global expertise instantly, organised meetings ranging from 30 to 300 people almost immediately and responded to members inquiries more rapidly by providing everything digitally, from activities preparation to follow-up. This meant a significant investment to ensure that our digital channels were up to speed to pivot to our first full virtual programme of workshops, working group meetings, annual seminar, and the European Social Services Awards ceremony.

We are aware of the heavy toll that Covid-19 has had on social services and social care. Initial data from members indicate that as the number of requests for social services support increase, so does the cost for social services. Strong public social services not only act as an effective safety net to protect the most vulnerable, but they are also vital for economic recovery through the promotion of an inclusive society. Speaking at the European Social Services Awards, European Commissioner Nicholas Schmit emphasised “the strategic role of social services in the future recovery of Europe through the recovery and resilience facility and the next funds programming period.”

ESN closes 2020 looking forward to the preparations of the 28th edition of the European Social Services Conference and our future four-year strategy.