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Leadership, Performance and Innovation working Group

The second meeting of the working group on Leadership, Performance and Innovation took place in Brighton on 28-29 May, and covered three themes: the impact of the crisis, leadership & management, social services in the Europe 2020 Strategy.

Case studies: impact of the crisis

Two further case studies of the impact of the crisis on social services were presented and discussed. The Public Centre for Social Welfare (OCMW) is the main player in social services in every municipality in Belgium. Even before the financial crisis, the OCMW in Genk was already making efforts to become more efficient due to rising demands on public expenditure and the vulnerability of the local economy. It introduced a number of measures: a systematic planning and review cycle; stronger evaluation of effectiveness through client feedback and external assessment; greater specialisation among social workers.

In Reykjavík, meanwhile, social services had to deal with the very direct impact of the financial crisis in Iceland in 2008. The city’s welfare department reacted with a mixture of cash-saving measures (staff wages cut, service charges increased, recruitment freeze), additional help for people in need (increase in some benefits, job projects, special monitoring of child safety) and innovations in service delivery (greater collaboration across services and sectors, deinstitutionalisation of mental health service). Over the last four years, the central government also decided to transfer several major services to the municipalities: home nursing, services for people with a mental illness, services for people with disabilities.

Leadership and Management

In their first discussion on this topic, group members reported that they provided leadership or management at different times according to the needs of the organisation. Most had some sort of management or business training, at least a year-long diploma undertaken prior to a senior management role. Although the two functions are closely related for social directors, most thought leadership was about setting and communicating future direction, whilst management was more about the present use of resources (staff and budget). A social director’s key relationships are with the senior management team and the relevant local politician(s). Democratic accountability through the local council and/or mayor was seen as unique to the public sector. Professional associations or informal groups of social directors were frequently mentioned as an important support network beyond their own organisation.

Europe 2020: the role of social services

The group reviewed the National Reform Programmes 2012 for Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Romania and the United Kingdom. Several points emerged:

  • None of the group was aware of the National Reform Programmes before the meeting, though several knew of the Europe 2020 targets
  • To their knowledge, their national associations of social directors had not been consulted
  • None of the initiatives cited in the NRPs were new; they reported existing policy
  • The NRPs did not respond to the Annual Growth Survey’s call to give priority to “adequate and affordable social services to prevent marginalisation of vulnerable groups”
  • ESN will carry out a more thorough analysis over the summer. The analysis did not cover the national social reports because they were not available for all countries.

Find out more about the work of ESN's Leadership, Performance, Innovation working group and read the 'Contemporary issues in the public management of social services in Europe' series. ESN members can access the presentations from all meetings of the working group in the Projects section of the Members' Area.