Social services have been at the forefront in the fight against Covid-19, which continues to have a significant impact on the sector. By organising a helpdesk event to support social services during the Covid-19 crisis, the European Commission is starting to recognise social services as essential during the pandemic.

Helpdesk support for social services responding to the Covid-19 crisis

On 3 June 2020, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL) organised a help desk event focused on the support required by social services during the Covid-19 crisis. The event was an opportunity for the European Commission and social services authorities to exchange views and report what has been happening at local level, while also starting a discussion on what the Commission can do to support social services in these times of crisis. 

During the event, social services authorities across Europe reported encountering multiple challenges related to the virus since it hit Europe a few months ago. Social services members of ESN, among them Madrid City Council and Lombardy Region, reported an increase in demand for social services as well as persistent challenges such as not having enough protective equipment for staff and service users.

Sharing experiences from the local level made it clear that social services are essential services across Europe in responding to the ongoing health and socio-economic crisis facing Europe. Andriana Sukova, Deputy-Director General of DG EMPL, rightly stated that “[social services’] support is key for making Europe stand for its social values.”

Sukova referred to the European Union’s “Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative” (CRII and CRII Plus, adopted on the 30 March 2020 and 22 April 2020 respectively). This initiative allows for an increase in the scope of social funds, such as the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). These regulatory changes have allowed for increased flexibility in management and reporting of these funds, alleviating the administrative burden.

Social services fight for their share at national level

With regulatory changes to several social funds through the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, the European Commission intends to allow EU Member States to rapidly re-direct part of the funds to Covid-19 related measures. It is now up to social services in the different EU Member States to request EU funding by contacting their national authorities responsible for managing EU funds.

Conclusions

Social services have acted urgently and flexibly to ensure that people in vulnerable situations get access to the basic support they need and in safe conditions. This support needs to be acknowledged and compensated by all levels of governance, including by recognising social services as essential services. The European Commission’s helpdesk on support to social services to respond to Covid-19 represents a step in the right direction.

 

Resources 

European Commission (n.d.). Helpdesk on support to social services to respond to Covid-19 crisis

European Commission (n.d.). EU Member states Managing Authorities

 

European Social Network (n.d.). Social services responses to Covid-19 crisis

European Social Network (n.d.). Protecting children in times of crisis

European Social Network (n.d.). How have social services responded to Covid-19 and can plan for the future?  

European Social Network (n.d.). Public social services are essential services

European Social Network (n.d.). How EU financial instruments can support local social services