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In a world where the next crisis always seems to be around the corner, resilience has become a focal point. At the frontline, social services carry the responsibility of an ongoing duty of care to support those made vulnerable in times of crisis.

In a new briefing, the European Social Network (ESN) explores an expanded definition of what resilience concretely means for social services and different approaches to the issue; a snapshot of current resilience-building capacities of social services in Europe; and recommendations to build the resilience of social services in the future. This briefing is the output of the first meeting of ESN's Social Services Transformation and Resilience Working Group, which took place in July 2022.

A need for an over-arching understanding

In social services, resilience has been discussed mostly in terms of the emotional resilience and wellbeing of social workers. However, to have a complete picture of resilience in social services, this concept should also be understood in terms of crisis preparedness and responses looking at least at three distinct yet interrelated levels: people, communities, and systems.

What is social services resilience?

Resilience in social services is about strengthening the capacity of people, communities and systems to cope with difficulties and adapt in response to them. This may include accepting and adapting to difficulties, developing responses or proactive actions in anticipation of those vulnerabilities, and the capacity to transform and change in view of new situations. The briefing explores this definition in detail and what it means for social services in particular.

ESN’s future work on resilience and transformation

ESN is leading a working group, which will meet again this year to continue its discussions about local strategies to support social services’ resilience and transformation to ensure the continuity of care and support in crisis situations. The European Social Services Conference, which takes place in Malmö between 14-16 June, will be the forum to look specifically at how digital and technological advancements can help to improve the delivery of social services by making access and sharing of information simpler, improving coordination between services, encouraging early intervention, supporting decision making, and promoting people’s autonomy and choice.


Read the briefing including the expanded definition of resilience and key recommendations for future resilient social services here

An Executive Summary of this briefing is available in EnglishFrenchGermanItalian and Spanish