One year after national governments submitted their plans to recover from Covid-19 , the European Commission has just adopted the first annual report assessing their implementation.
Focus on funding for climate and digital projects
The national plans are structured around six pillars: 1. green transition; 2. digital transformation; 3. economic cohesion, productivity and competitiveness; 4. social and territorial cohesion; 5. health, economic, social and institutional resilience; and 6. policies for the next generation.
Across the 22 plans adopted the total amount allocated to funding measures supporting cohesion and resilience and policies for the next generation which includes the projects which would be most relevant for social services, total €320 billion, of a total expenditure of €723.8 billion (in current prices) of grants and loans to Member States.
Measures to improve social protection and social housing take prominence
Measures under Pillar 4 cover a broad range of reforms and investment to strengthen Member States’ social housing and social protection systems, accounting for around EUR 27 billion of estimated expenditure. They largely focusing on improving effectiveness, quality, and resilience, the inclusion of people with disabilities, and improving the living conditions of older people in need of care. Some Member States have also included steps to reform their minimum income and pension systems and other social benefits to increase their adequacy and sustainability. Social cohesion expenditures in pillar 4 are shared broadly equally between social policies (social protection and social housing) and measures contributing to employment and skills (non-youth employment support, modernisation of labour market institutions and adult education)
Investments in long-term care mainly focused on health
Pillar 5 focuses mainly on strengthening health care (with a total amount on expenditure approximately EUR 37 billion, representing 49.15% of the pillar 5 total allocation) and reforming public administrations. EUR 25 billion is dedicated to the construction or upgrading of health infrastructure and medical equipment. 15 plans include measures related to long-term care (LTC), with approximately EUR 4.2 billion dedicated to investment in social care homes, nursing homes and related LTC infrastructure. The plans also include national deinstitutionalisation strategies, promoting a model geared towards community and home care solutions.
Policies for children and young people
Pillar 6 (policies for the next generation) includes measures to improve the resilience of Member States’ education systems and support youth employment with a planned expenditure of EUR 49 billion, or 11% of the total RRF budget. Plans to increase participation in early childhood education and care particularly for disadvantaged groups, are welcomed, given the overwhelming evidence of the benefits on children’s later life chances. Many plans also aim to improve inclusiveness in general school education, with measures to offer individualised support to disadvantaged groups to tackle early school leaving and school dropouts, but there is no specific mention of measures to support children in alternative care.
Monitoring social investment in Recovery Funds
ESN has highlighted the need to ensure that national plans also include specific investments in social services and address the realistic funding needs of the social services and social care sectors - most recently in our recent report, ‘Funding Social Services Recovery -Anchoring social services in post-Covid national reform plans.’ It would seem at first glance that perhaps the message on the need to invest in health and social services, tackle social exclusion and take steps to build a more equal Europe has been heard at least by some EU member states.
However, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and ESN will continue to follow the further implementation of the RRF in its EU semester working group, monitoring if the evolving social needs across the EU are being adequately addressed in the recovery from Covid-19. Progress in the implementation of recovery and resilience plans can be followed on the Commission’s Recovery and Resilience Scoreboard.
ESN aims to support public social services so they can fully benefit from the potential of resilience and recovery funding Indeed, this is the key theme of the 30th European Social Services Conference in June where social services professionals will discuss with European and national policy-makers how initiatives like the RRF can support the dynamic development and improve the quality of public social services in the long-term.