On 28-29 June, 16 organisations including the European Social Network (ESN) came together to kick-start a new project to set up a EU Funding Social Services Help Desk. Co-funded by the European Union, this project aims to support the access of social services to EU funds and foster relationships between the managing authorities and the authorities responsible for designing social services, creating a dialogue and fostering reciprocal collaboration to improve social services access to EU funding.
The 2-year project officially started on May 1st and aims to meet demands from the sector for more support in how EU funds can be accessed. The consortium, made up of European and national social services organisations with members in all EU Member States will ensure that social services providers and Managing Authorities in every country will engage and develop concrete solutions to ensure they can meet the growing needs of those who rely on social services in their local communities.
ESN as the organisation which represents public social services and a growing number of Managing Authorities, is responsible for making sure they are actively engaged in all project activities and that their needs and challenges are equally reflected and represented. Therefore, ESN will facilitate the exchange and cooperation between Managing Authorities, social services, and the European Commission to ensure that funding priorities are based on an assessment of social needs so that investments target programmes which respond to these needs. By promoting their development and modernisation, the project is intended to improve the quality of social services in Europe through cooperation and good practice exchange.
“We need to identify needs and challenges and promote an understanding between different agencies working on social services” said Alfonso Lara Montero, ESN’s Chief Executive Officer, highlighting ESN’s role of fostering exchange between authorities that design the services and social services providers.
Loris Di Pietrantonio, Head of Unit for the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), updated the project partners on the European Commission’s expectations for the project and latest developments around ESF+. Highlighting some of the challenges such as the complexities of the EU funding systems, lack of awareness of EU programmes at local level and the motivation and expectation mismatch between Managing Authorities and social services providers, he underlined the value of this project and the importance of the bottom-up approach being taken by the project consortium partners.
Social services are facing considerable challenges, with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine only intensifying the need for immediate and effective action. Thus, receiving adequate funds, making sure that they are easily accessible and being used to fund quality interventions in the field is critical to ensuring everyone can access the support they need in their local community. This project is an important milestone in the achievement of this objective.