We brought our members to the European Parliament (EP) on 9 April so they could share their recommendations for making the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) more effective for social services.
European Structural and Investment Funds are used significantly by social services to support vulnerable people. As negotiations take place on the new EU financial framework for 2021-2027, our members spoke in the European Parliament to highlight how EU funds can better promote the work of social services at a roundtable we organised with Sofia Ribeiro, MEP.
The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) proposal by the European Commission merges several existing funds but remains EU’s main instrument for investing in people. Verónica Lope Fontagné, MEP and author of the EP report on ESF+, spoke on how the EP has tried to strengthen the Commission’s proposal:“We called for a 19% increase in the budget for the new ESF+, and to increase the proportion of funds dedicated to children, young people, and addressing material deprivation.”
Enabling Innovation in Social Services
Hanne Denoo, Project Manager, Public Centre for Social Welfare Kortrijk in Belgium, a member of ESN, highlighted the opportunities of EU funds:“EU funds allow us to scale-up innovative ideas.”
Carlos Santos Guerrero, Deputy Director of Social Services in the Region of Galicia in Spain, a member of ESN, also explained how EU funding enables long-term planning outside national political cycles, building a culture of innovation and evaluation.
Carlos went on to give a concrete example of the Reconduce programme in Galicia. Funded by the ESF, it has prevented the eviction of 300 families at risk of homelessness. See the Spanish country profile in our ‘Investing in Children’s Services, Improving Outcomes’ report for more information.
Listening to Local Social Services
Through working directly with people at local level in projects such as ‘Reconduce’, social services understand where there are gaps in service or policy and this intelligence should be drawn on to inform decisions on funding priorities.
One example was raised by Pavel Čáslava, Ethics Committee Chairman, Association of Social Care Providers in the Czech Republic, who explained that more investment into the development of community-based services for older people is needed in the Czech Republic.
Agreeing the Final ESF+ Framework
Our members welcomed the merging of different funds into the ESF+ to unify management frameworks which can help to address the administrative burden of EU funds. But efficiency, they argued, would increase by consolidating platforms for reporting on performance indicators into one.
The final ESF+ framework will be agreed by the EP and the representatives of national governments. Brando Benifei, MEP, stressed that together with other MEPs he will continue to fight for a strong ESF+ in negotiations, by setting ambitious funding allocations for social inclusion, children, young people and for addressing material deprivation.
Alfonso Montero, ESN’s Chief Executive, summarised by highlighting the importance of EU funds for implementing social inclusion locally, but argued that the impact can be strengthened. Firstly, through a common management and reporting framework. Secondly, through better participation of social services at national and European level for defining national priorities and criteria for funding.