Towards a common EU deconfinement strategy: local public social services calling for dialogue and social investment

With more and more European countries announcing deconfinement measures, the European Union is pressing for a coordinated EU response to the Covid-19 health emergency recovery. Responding to the joint statement of the members of the European Council of 26 March 2020, the European Commission, in cooperation with the President of the European Council, has put forward a “Joint European Roadmap towards lifting Covid-19 containment measures”. This document contains recommendations for EU Member States regarding the gradual deconfinement measures to be taken in the months to come.

Being hit particularly hard by the health emergency, local public social services are discussing future planning of services and activities related to the deconfinement process and are calling for dialogue and increased social investment across Europe.

The roadmap rightly indicates that a gradual rollback of confinement measures will unavoidably lead to an increase in new cases of infection. Constant adjustment and eventual reintroduction of confinement measures will be required. To plan their activities and social services, local public social services are in need of timely and clear communication and transparency on the planned measures. A joint approach between the national, regional and local level is hereby essential. Especially in the planning of services with vulnerable groups, social services working with population groups such as children, homeless people or people with disabilities, for instance, need to be kept up to date on the planned confinement and deconfinement measures in order to adapt their practices accordingly in a timely manner.

“To plan their activities and social services, local public social services are in need of timely and clear communication and transparency on the planned measures.”

As mentioned in the roadmap and advised by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Commission’s Advisory Panel on Covid-19, general measures should progressively become targeted. The most vulnerable population groups, such as elderly people and people with disabilities, as indicated in the roadmap, should be protected for a longer time period. ESN believes that this should not mean continued confinement of vulnerable groups. Measures of solidarity should be taken to let everyone enjoy social engagement and participation. Dialogue with local public social services authorities working with these vulnerable people is therefore crucial.

“Measures of solidarity should be taken to let everyone enjoy social engagement and participation.”

Lastly, provision of protective equipment is of essential importance for the provision of social services at the local level and should be guaranteed to both social services professionals and service users. The testing of people belonging to vulnerable population groups and social services professionals, often working in close physical contact with people, is fundamental. This both ensures equal accessibility of health care services to all and increase the accuracy of the monitoring of the spread of the virus. Cooperation with authorities working with them is therefore very important.

“Provision of protective equipment is of essential importance for the provision of social services at the local level and should be guaranteed to both social services professionals and service users.”

ESN welcomes the proposal of the European Commission regarding the European Recovery Instrument “Next Generation EU” as well as the reinforced MFF and the adjusted European Commission’s work programme 2020, and stresses the importance of increased investment in social policy, in order to mitigate the negative social consequences of the pandemic. Cooperation with public local social services will be of fundamental importance in addressing socio-economic fallouts as a result of the pandemic in the months to come.

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