The European Commission published an overview of the integrated social services focused on the labour market and social (re)integration in the EU. This report broadly covers the macro trends affecting welfare reform, and it offers suggestions on how to improve the efficiency of service delivery for labour market activation.

This first part of the study provides a systematic overview of the theoretical, empirical and policy literature of integrated social services and employment services delivery, with a particular emphasis on one-stop-shops and activation services. The second part of the study describes ten examples of social service integration in the EU in nine Member States (Austria, Estonia, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Italy, UK, Germany, Finland) focusing on vertical and horizontal service integration. Based on the existing literature and detailed case studies, the first part also offers some policy recommendations for the design of integrated service delivery related to one-stop-shops and activation.

Dissecting the report

The first part of the report describes external drivers of welfare reform, such as changing labour markets, globalisation and technology development and explains the policy context in many countries, including the concepts of flexicurity and social protection. The authors of the report then further group the main drivers and barriers that generate welfare reforms into three categories: policy challenges, actors and institutions.

The report refers to the following five aspects of service integration that may contribute to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery:

  • coordinating activation
  • administration and service provision
  • responding to multidimensional problems
  • access to services
  • innovation

The report distinguishes between welfare regimes and recommends that Member States looking for inspiration should consider examples that were implemented in an institutional context similar to their own. For countries with less efficient public administrations, the report advises to start with modest goals and to seek technical assistance from their peers (making use of EU programmes and learning networks) or international organisations such as the OECD. As a matter of example, the EC refers to the Estonian reform of 2009, which merged the Labour Market Board with the Unemployed Insurance Fund, as a good example of better coordination and more effective activation of jobseekers.

ESN’s work on Integrated Services

In 2015, ESN will contribute to the work on integrated services with a review of the concept of integrated services from a public social services perspective. We will analyse policies and practices of social services integration with employment and/or education and/or health services. These may address a number of target groups from children through to adults with disabilities to older people. A report with findings will be presented at a seminar in November.