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The European Social Network (ESN) has responded to the European Commission’s call for evidence on minimum income programmes. ESN argues that minimum income programmes should provide an appropriate floor and be accompanied by a social inclusion plan which is both cross-cutting and integrated, not only including access to the labour market but also social services. We hope that the evidence we provided will feed into the European Commission’s preparation of a EU Recommendation that promotes modernising minimum income schemes across Europe.

ESN’s response is developed across three main themes:

I. Access, Coverage and Adequacy

  • National and subnational authorities should undertake an assessment of needs and socio-economic considerations of localities and use the data gathered to plan and establish services accordingly to ensure that they are available and accessible.
  • The establishment of social services centres, with professionals coming from various sectors including social work, social educators, psychologists and employment advisers should be promoted.
  • Public social services and third sector partner organisations are key to reach out to the most vulnerable in order to improve services take up.
  • National and subnational authorities should make sure that they design simple procedures for beneficiaries, for example a unique entry point through community social services centres. There should also be a professional of reference, usually a social worker, who can accompany them to navigate the system.
  • To improve accessibility, the digitisation of application processes should be fostered, while keeping onsite applications available for those who are not able to use digital services.

II. Social Activation, Employment and Social Services Cooperation

  • It is key to shift policy and practice from activation focused solely on employment to an ‘inclusive activation’ approach, led by social services who co-create with the person(s) concerned an integrated social inclusion plan.
  • People with difficulties in joining the labour market, should receive personalised support in preparation to finding employment but also as they have found a job in the initial months.
  • Building links with employers can increase people’s chances of finding a job and be socially included. Public authorities should lead the development of these links.
  • Minimum income beneficiaries should also be linked to local social networks which can take form through peer support, mentoring programmes, community centres.
  • Minimum income beneficiaries should be co-producers of individual, step-by-step social inclusion plans to ensure their active participation in society and where possible in the labour market.

III. Cooperation, Monitoring and Evaluation

  • There needs to be a robust governance system in place between national and sub-national authorities. The same goes for professionals across sectors. Joint staff training is an area for investment to enhance cooperation of professionals.
  • Evidence shows that introducing a professional of reference can help increase chances of services take-up, establish personalised tailored care plans, and monitor the plan’s implementation.
  • The beneficiaries of social support are experts by experience and can help public social services design more effective services. They need to be active participants in the development and monitoring of their social inclusion plans.
  • National and subnational authorities should invest in IT solutions that support the interoperability of public employment and social services.
  • The implementation of the guidelines included in the Council Recommendation should be monitored through European and national monitoring mechanisms.
  • At European level, this could be done through the European Semester process and a platform which integrates representatives of national and subnational authorities with responsibility for the design of integrated social inclusion programmes combining minimum income and at least social and employment services.
  • At national level, the Commission should promote monitoring frameworks that assess the situation holistically covering at least three pillars: social rights legislation, economic investment, and coverage along the lines of ESN’s proposed ‘Rights-Economic Investment-Coverage (REC) Index. ‘

How will ESN continue to work on minimum income?

Throughout 2022, ESN will continue to gather evidence of integrated social inclusion programmes, which cover minimum income and social services, supporting people’s social inclusion, to be published in a report later this year. ESN will also organise its annual seminar on this theme to support the EU Recommendation and national developments with up-to-date data.

Download ESN Response’s to the call for evidence on minimum income here.