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The impact of digitalisation on social services across Europe continues to be challenging as well as transformational, hence the most recent meeting of ESN’s working group on resilience and transformation, held recently in Rome, focused on this topic.. 

Setting the scene for the third Working Group, Christian Fillet, European Social Network’s Chairshared a key focus of our work: “Improving the digital skills of social service leaders and operators must be a priority for the sector we represent

Ms Ornella Guglielmino, Director of Social Inclusion at Lazio Region, concurred with Mr Fillet: for example, emphasized how “Social services leaders must ensure that the opportunities provided by IT solutions allow more and more citizens to access services

In preparation for the meeting, ESN conducted a survey and found out that only 25% of respondenthad a fully operational integrated data management system, demonstrating the relevance of the issue. 

People, particularly the most vulnerable, have difficulties accessing the technology, hence Eline Chivot from DG Connect at the European Commission, told attendees that “Only if no-one is left behind, we will avoid the tensions that sometimes we feel around the use of technology”. 

Digital Transformation – Where are social services?

Representatives from ESN members across Europe addressed the national state of social services digitalisation in their countries.  Professor Andrea Bilotti from Rome III University emphasised  that local authorities should be guided by national governments on how to spend the current financial resources supporting digitalisation. Hannah Gill, from the UK Local Government Organisation, argued that governments should provide funding based on long-term strategies, a viewpoint  also shared by Anna Isoviita from the Finnish Association of Social Directors. More effective involvement by people who are beneficiaries of digital social services was advocated for by Kathleen Wabrowetz, from the German Association for Public and Private Welfare, while Iris Leene from the Dutch Association of Social Services Directors, stressed the need to discuss guidelines on the ethical use of AI at national level. 

Practical use of case management and AI in social services

A key thread throughout the two days was how to put citizens at the centre of digital strategies. Maria Condemi, Director at the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policies underlined the need for“public administration to simplify citizens life, for instance, allowing their access to public administration services once.” 

Putting the person at the centre drives the work with AI in Helsingborg to provide support for older people with chronic conditions at an early stage. In Madrid, they have used AI to contact older residents and find out if they are lonely and need further support. 

Moving Forward

Closing the meeting, ESN’s CEO reminded the audience: “Public social services should be at the forefront of digitalisation driving forward the agenda and putting in place a co-creation process in place to prevent no-one is left behind’’. Across the pond, a former social services director has launched an initiative on AI and social services, with which we are connecting to encourage further cooperation that can help us contribute to the transformation of social services to make them more resilient to future crises. ESN’s working group will continue to be instrumental to make it happen.


ESN (2021), Transforming Social Services Through Digitalisation

ESN (2022), Resilient Social Services, Building For the Future

ESN (2023), Building Resilience in Social Services by Managing Demand

All presentations from the meeting are available for ESN members in the ESN Members Platform