Why social investment is key

Following the economic crisis, austerity measures in Europe have often had a negative impact on the quality of social services due to the lack of investment or budgetary constraints. Against this vision, several speakers highlighted the need to promote sustainable investment in quality social services; ensuring that those who have disadvantaged backgrounds are not left behind. 

Key tools to promote social investment

As the lack of redistribution leads to high levels of inequality, Raf Manji, Councillor in Christchurch, New Zealand, argued in favour of a universal basic income (UBI) covering basic needs for all citizens. Manji argued that establishing these cash transfers to all citizens, without asking them to fulfil any kind of requirement, responds to the fact that 25% of all GDP derives from unpaid labour carried out in the community and at home.

Lieve Fransen from the European Policy Centre called for an ambitious strategy to boost long-term social infrastructure investment in Europe - through social reforms preparing individuals, families, and communities to respond to the changing nature of social risks in advanced economies. She pointed out to significant gaps in social infrastructure seen in the High Level Task Force Report on Investing in Social Infrastructure in Europe while highlighting the role of local governments in improving social infrastructure, and the need for financial consolidation to enable them to deliver.

Partnering with private investors to finance social projects is key when tackling major future challenges such as ageing societies. The public-private collaboration was also explored by Kevin Goldberg who explained Groupe SOS’ activity with Social Impact Bonds.

Investing in children services

The overriding objective of social investment policies is to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Children growing up in poverty are more likely to suffer from social exclusion and health problems in the future, argued Herminia Palacio, New York’s Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. Palacio pointed out that New York City has decided to invest in free childcare for all four-year-olds in the city.

Measuring social investment

In Spain, the National Association of Directors and Managers of Social Services has developed the Social Services Development Index, which evaluates the level of investment of each Spanish region in the field of social services. Jose Manuel Ramirez presented this initiative highlighting its importance in order to attract attention on social issues from both governments and the media.

In the path towards inclusive societies, social services have a predominant role to play as they constitute safety nets supporting the most vulnerable and promote socio-economic development in society. Discussions at the conference focused on ensuring that policies are designed to strengthen people’s skills and capacities, supporting them to participate fully in their communities. Whether talking about investing in people or infrastructure, speakers agreed that spending on social services should not be seen as an expense but as an investment.