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In the wake of the European Pillar on Social Rights, different social policy areas have received attention by the EU and stakeholders. A critical area is the support for people excluded from the labour market, on which the European Commission (EC) has recently issued a Staff Working Document related to its 2008 Active Inclusion Recommendation. The European Social Network (ESN) reviewed the document with a focus on the involvement of social services.

When the Active Inclusion Recommendation was published by the European Commission in 2008 the concept was welcomed by many stakeholders. However, doubts remained over its effectiveness regarding the employment integration of vulnerable people. A recent analysis reveals that some of these concerns were justified and that the success of Active Inclusion policies depends on the involvement of social services.

The concept of Active Inclusion

The concept of Active Inclusion, valued by many for its holistic nature, is based on three strands:

    • Ensuring adequate income support: The first strand acknowledges that individuals should have a basic right to resources and social assistance including to receive sufficient minimum income.
    • Creating inclusive labour markets: The second strand focusses on enabling people to enter or re-enter the labour market through investing in support, education, or training. This was connected with an ambition to create quality jobs in a labour market that is socially inclusive for vulnerable people.
    • Providing access to quality services: The third strand revolves around the provision of quality services across different areas such as social housing, child care, and long-term care as well as the need for coordination between local, regional and national levels. These different services were seen to play a crucial role in responding to people’s individual life circumstances and in allowing people to take up work.
Acknowledging the role of social services in an integrated approach

It has been highlighted that a link between Public Employment Services and social services is vital to make labour market integration successful. New approaches have been explored in that area. For example, in the Netherlands local authorities have been inspired by the Participation Act to introduce ‘Neighbourhood Social Teams’ to detect problems early and to refer people to services. In Denmark, case managers at the local level coordinate targeted support from an interdisciplinary team of welfare professionals.

These kinds of interventions can make employment policies more effective. ESN particularly welcomes the EC’s acknowledgement of the role of social services.

[…] it has become apparent that focus on employment activation is crucial. However, this has to happen in combination with action on income support and social services, if it is to work efficiently and not sideline those most in need.

Focussing on long-term unemployed people

This focus on needy people in the labour market is important when examining the wider European picture. Countries that implement Active Inclusion policies more broadly often fare better not only in terms of their general employment record, but also regarding the integration of excluded groups. ESN agrees with the EC that the pursuit of more effective integrated services should continue. One of the groups in focus should be long-term unemployed, for whom a tailored approach is necessary to respond to high individual barriers to employment integration. These barriers may come in the form mental health problems, skill gaps, or disabilities.