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In a ceremony in Brussels on 1 April, the winners of the 2021 European Social Services Awards (ESSA) have now been announced. From amongst  many strong applications, six winners from across Europe were selected by an independent expert panel as well as public vote as those that most effectively built resilience in social services. However, as presenter of the Research Project category, Jean Ayoub, Secretary General, International Social Service, highlighted “all the finalists were winners tonight in terms of their merit and commitment.”

The third edition of the Awards was attended by representatives of all shortlisted projects as well as representatives from the European Commission, Ruth Paserman, Director for Funds Programming and Implementation, and Katarina Ivankovic-Knezevic, Director for Social Rights and Inclusion. In her introduction, Ms Paserman spoke about the importance of fostering innovation and the exchange of good practice, a key aim of the ESSA, as sometimes these projects can end up as European policies.

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Download the 2021 report

ESSA 2021 Winners

Social Services Innovation Award

Alternative Accommodation for Older People to help them overcome loneliness

DG Elderly People, Madrid City Council, Spain

This project by Madrid City Council supported older people in social isolation to cover their health, physical, and psycho-social needs during the Covid-19 lockdown as usual services were suspended. Housing facilities were provided for older people in need, who could not return immediately to their homes because of their weakened physical and emotional circumstances. The innovative element comes from its person-centred approach and the fact that this resource was created specifically to respond to the social emergency that the pandemic brought about for these older people. 35 women and 15 men were cared for, with 66% being over 80 years old. 55 apartments serviced by a multidisciplinary team of professionals. The evaluation showed that people felt accompanied and cared for according to their personal needs.

Outstanding Team Award

Socio-Educational Project Team, Churriana de la Vega, Grenada, Spain

Social services in Churriana de la Vega in Granada, Spain, realised that young people who were expelled from school spent their time at home alone not necessarily benefitting from this time of reflection. A relational and interactional gap between young people and the older generation in the town was also identified. Therefore, they set up a mixed team of psychologists, community and social workers to develop joint activities for secondary school students expelled from school and older people in local day and older people’s centres. Thanks to this initiative, younger people’s tolerance and empathy towards older people has greatly improved and there has been an improvement in social cohesion within the local community.

Collaborative Practice Award

National Housing First Programme

The Irish Government's Housing and Health Services & Genio, Ireland

Housing First (HF) is an internationally recognised, evidence-based model for individuals who are long-term homeless with complex needs. The HF model consists of 3 components;

1. permanent, affordable housing;

2. mobile case management and treatment services;

3. a philosophy based on client’s choice and recovery.

In practice, this translates into permanent housing for individuals, without any preconditions around sobriety or mental health treatment, and then providing the individual with a range of supports to help them maintain their tenancy. Ireland’s National HF Programme provides an opportunity for all stakeholders in the homeless sector to take a new approach to housing treatment and support services in a planned and integrated way. The government departments responsible for housing, health and justice are collaborating closely on the implementation of these reforms. This person-centred approach has achieved until now an 87% effectiveness rate in terms of tenancy maintenance.

Research Project

Social Work and the Covid-19 Crisis

National Foundation of Social Workers & National Council of Social Workers, Italy

By the end of March 2020, the National Council of Social Workers, the National Foundation of Social Workers and 14 out of 20 Regional Councils of Social Work in Italy joined forces to bring together social workers and researchers to gather knowledge from front-line professionals and turn it into improvements in welfare structures and related social policies. The research was based on a survey answered by 20,000 social workers, a group of 30 experts, and 6 virtual communities to analyse data and create the knowledge that not only has helped to better understand the effects of Covid-19 but also to lead towards the necessary change for a more coherent, effective and community-based social welfare system.

Technology Tool

DOST: Smart Model for Sustainable Social Services

Agency for Sustainable and Operative Social Provision, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan’s agency for social protection -DOST is implementing a model for a long-term reform that provides the population of Azerbaijan with smooth access to public social services through DOST centres, and deploys state-of-the-art IT solutions, through a ‘single window’ platform. With five centres, covering eleven districts of Baku city and other regions in the country, DOST is providing a centralised electronic system which ensures direct, operational, transparent and easy access to social services, and promotes universal and sustainable services provision., DOST is advancing digitalisation of service provision, automation of processes and decrease of human factor involvement, while ensuring a universal and coordinated service access based on people’s needs. By the end of 2023, it aims to replicate the project and reach each person in need of social protection within the country.

Social Services Excellence Award

Agenzija Sapport Community Service Team

Agenzija Sapport, Malta

The team at Aġenzija Sapport Community Services provides personalised support for people with disabilities in Malta through Individualised Care Plans (ISP). These plans are personalised so that additional social problems beyond disability like domestic violence, unemployment, mental health issues or homelessness are taken into account. The objective of the programme is to help beneficiaries become active participants in the community while promoting their autonomy by learning new skills. Through skills sessions such as cooking, budget management, personal care, housekeeping and shopping, clients are empowered to participate in day-to-day activities independently. In addition, clients complete the skills sessions together with other peers fostering a sense of social inclusion by supporting each other. In 2020, 137 persons with disabilities benefited directly from this service, consisting of 600 service hours per week.

Continuing the conversation on resilient social services

This summer, at the 30th European Social Services Conference in Hamburg, ESN will continue to explore how social services can become resilient under the theme of ‘Rethinking Recovery: Reshaping social services with new tools.’ Over the course of three days between 8-10 June, the Conference will bring together over 500 delegates from all areas of social services in 24 Workshops, 5 Thematic Panels and 6 Plenaries to share innovative and evidence-based knowledge and practice from across Europe. There are still a few remaining places left, so secure your place now here!

2022 European Social Services Awards

Do you want to showcase the amazing work of your social services teams, highlight your team’s innovative projects, or learn from and share your experiences with other social services professionals across Europe? ESN will open nominations for the 2022 European Social Services Awards towards the end of May – follow on twitter and linkedin to find out how you can get involved.