With the European Union’s financial budget for 2021-2027 now confirmed as €1.074 trillion, the European Social Network (ESN) assesses the top three funding opportunities for social services authorities. While discussions are ongoing regarding the EU’s recovery instruments and the annual allocation of the budget to social policy, taking a closer look at funding options for social services is vital. 

1. NextGenerationEU- Recovery and Resilience Facility

Approved by the Council in July 2020, ‘NextGenerationEU’ is a financial instrument created to support EU Members States hit by the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. While still not operational due to discussions around the financing of the instrument, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the instrument's centrepiece, will provide EU Member States with 672.5 billion in grants and loans for implementing their national recovery and resilience plans, to be submitted to the European Commission by 30 April 2021.

The inclusion of social services for vulnerable children, families, people with disabilities, homeless people and older people in these plans will be crucial for public social services authorities in accessing funding from their own governments to reform their social inclusion programmes. ESN is actively calling for the need to target EU funding for public social services authorities, currently facing the social consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout 2020, ESN organised different webinars on the use of EU funding for social services and got in contact with EU institutions’ representatives to make specific recommendations of transformational initiatives in the sector.

2. European Social Fund (+)

The European Social Fund (ESF) is the EU's main instrument for supporting a more social and inclusive Europe. In 2020, an additional budget of € 47.5 billion was provided to EU Member States. Public social services authorities currently using ESF funding for their programmes will have the possibility to have funding for additional two years until the end of 2022.

In addition, the future ESF+ budget for 2021-2027 will be €87.9 billion. Programmes combating child poverty, promoting youth employment, and those for green and digital transitions will be particularly welcomed in the next programming period.

In 2021, ESN plans to hold several webinars on EU funding for social services in the framework of its working group on EU Funding. Among these, specific attention will be paid to the ESF+.  

3. Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD)  

Now part of the European Social Fund+, the FEAD supports EU Member States' actions to provide material assistance to people in the most deprived situations, including food, clothing and other essential items for personal use. In December 2020, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on releasing additional resources for the FEAD in 2021 and 2022. Member States may now increase funding for organisations, including public social services authorities, using FEAD funding.

ESN has been active in promoting FEAD for its members, holding different events presenting several best practices on using FEAD funding for social programmes. FEAD has established itself as a valuable funding stream for the delivery of support to vulnerable population groups and is being used by public social services authorities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

ESN and EU Funding

In 2020, ESN held several webinars on EU Funding for public social services, to discuss how its members can access EU Funding to tackle the social challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Recognising the potential of EU funding and EU recovery instruments such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility, public social services have been highlighting the challenges the policy priorities that should be funded for social services reform. In 2021, ESN will step up its efforts through specific work with member organisations and partners in highlighting key priorities for financing the modernisation and reform of social services.




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