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Ageing populations, increased demand for services and pressure on budgets are major issues for social protection across Europe. Against this backdrop, the Nordic Social Security Forum, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 22-24 May, brought together experts and policymakers to address the pressing challenges facing social security systems in the Nordic countries. 

The meeting explored innovative strategies to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of social security systems in the region. Alfonso Lara Montero, CEO of the European Social Network (ESN), was invited to discuss with experts the importance of adopting an integrated approach to social protection programmes.

Accessing Integrated Long-Term Care 

The discussion focused on the importance of access to tailored long-term care, stressing that it should be based on the needs of older people rather than on their lifetime contributions. Mr Montero pointed out that the number of people potentially needing long-term care is projected to rise from 31 million in 2019 to 38 million by 2050 across the EU. According to ESN findingsintegrated care and support are central to the growing demand for improved service user experience and better health and social care outcomes.

Mr Montero stressed that integrating health and social care professionals, for example through multidisciplinary teams in home care, can reduce admissions to care homes by 20%. 

Gijs Dekkers, Chair of the Working Group on Pension Adequacy at the EU Social Protection Committee, presented the 2024 Pension Adequacy Report, emphasising the critical role of healthcare and long-term care in supporting the ability of pension systems to ensure a reasonable standard of living for older people. 

Building a Resilient Social Services Workforce

Addressing the growing demand for social services poses significant challenges for the workforce. Recent work conducted by ESN indicates that supporting social services professionals in delivering services effectively requires ongoing training, adequate supervision, and development support. Jesper Brask Fischer, Head of Welfare at PFA Pension and Insurance Company, echoed this, mentioning that labour shortage was ranked as the top challenge for Danish companies. 

Leveraging Technology in Promoting Autonomy and Inclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital and technological solutions in social services, highlighting the importance of harnessing digitalisation to reach people in their homes and communities. 

Mr Montero shared examples of digital tools used across Europe, such as sensors for falls and habit detection and collaborative robots (cobots) to enhance service delivery. Rikke Hougaard Zeberg, Director General of the Danish Agency for Data Supply and Infrastructure, emphasised that AI and digitalisation can improve quality and efficiency in the public sector. In addition, Hólmfríður Sigríður Jónsdóttir, Project Manager at the Social Insurance Administration in Iceland, highlighted the potential of AI to enhance service delivery in the public sector.

Looking Ahead

Ensuring the sustainability and resilience of social security systems is vital going forward. To this end, Mr Montero stressed the importance of bridging social security and social protection if we want to empower people to live fulfilling lives.

By providing sufficient income support and access to essential services, we can foster a society that is more inclusive, fair, adaptable and where every voice matters. This vision holds particular significance for our ageing population. ‘Older people should not be seen as a burden on the society but as truly valuable’, highlighted Huld Magnúsdóttir, Director General of Tryggingastofnun[1] in Iceland.

[1] Social security office in Kópavogur, Iceland