The European Social Network publishes its annual report and recommendations for the European Semester 2020.

ESN’s annual report on the European Semester 2020 consolidates key messages from senior leaders in local social services across Europe to feed into the 2020 European Semester cycle at the European but also national level. The report highlights three key issues for public social services in 24 countries:

  • Adequacy of social protection systems and poverty
  • Housing and homelessness
  • Quality of social services

Poverty and social protection

ESN’s Reference Group on the European Semester highlighted the worrying situation of children and young people, with single-parent families remaining particularly vulnerable to social risks. Unemployment among people with disabilities also remains a key challenge. Despite efforts to better integrate people with disabilities into the labour market, the inadequacy of social services and allowances means unemployment among disabled people remains a challenge. So does unemployment among migrants, and challenges for social services linked to the ageing population.

Housing and homelessness

Nearly all members of the Group reported an increase in homelessness. Lack of adequate social housing to match the demand coupled with rising housing prices has put vulnerable households under increased pressure.

Quality of social services

Members of the Group highlighted the lack of cooperation between social services and other welfare providers as the main obstacle to integration of services. They also stressed the high turnover and severe risks of burnout due to work overload and understaffing. Additionally, wages remain unattractive compared to the private sector, with sometimes considerable regional disparities. All these factors impact the quality of care provided. The group unanimously agreed that the lack of funding of social services as well as regional differences in funding are affecting quality. The quality of social services is also not adequately measured because most evaluations are quantitative in nature.

2020 European Semester Recommendations

European Commission and national governments should focus on policies that foster:

  • A more integrated support to promote social inclusion:
    • effective integrated case management with information for users and clear distribution of roles between professionals
    • improvement of legislation to facilitate integration and data exchange among different agencies
    • more integrated funding streams.
  • More investment in the workforce to improve social services quality:
    • more time for social workers to do relational work
    • standardisation of skills and training for social work professionals
    • tackle the recruitment challenge, mainly due to poor working conditions and funding.

ESN’s Reference Group on the European Semester includes representatives from national associations of social services directors, social services in regional and local authorities, and national associations of social services professionals. Set-up in 2014, the Group aims to share awareness of issues social services face at local level, provide policy recommendations to the European Commission on how these issues can be tackled, and raise the profile of social services in European level policy-making. The work of the Group is also supported by the European So