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Ensuring the social inclusion of the most vulnerable people in our societies is one of the underlying objectives of building a more social Europe. Supporting their participation in the labour market and addressing simultaneously the multiple challenges they face, such as homelessness, poor mental or physical health, is seeing as the most effective way to support their social inclusion, as well as addressing the labour shortages caused by changing demographics across Europe.

This month, the European Social Network (ESN) together with Deloitte organised a webinar to discuss how employment and social services are working together and utilising technology to adapt their approaches to support people with multiple disadvantages into the labour market.

Global Efforts to Reform Public Employment Services

Josh Hjartarson, Global Leader for Human and Social Services at Deloitte Canada, opened the discussion by presenting their upcoming publication, ’Future of Employment Supports’. Despite the number of jobs in the market being high in OECD countries, there are populations who face multiple barriers to access the labour market. This report is an attempt to figure out what are countries doing and what are the common trends to activate these populations.  Success factors include increasing efforts to engage employers and provide them specific support to help employers activate these populations, new contracting and partnership approaches.

Partnerships for Social Inclusion

ESN has long advocated for an integrated and whole person approach to supporting social inclusion, looking at how people furthest from the labour market can be supported in a holistic manner which is adapted to their needs. In such integrated programmes social, health, education, housing and employment services work together to support people who face multiple barriers to be included in society. ESN Policy Officer Martin Lichte, presented ESN’s latest report on integrated work between agencies responsible for minimum income schemes, social and employment services. We found out that to build sustainable social inclusion partnerships, public services need to formalise their collaboration. When it comes to the use of technology for better data exchange, more work needs to be done on creating joint IT systems and clarifying data protection rules which prevent information being shared more effectively.

An example of joint delivery of support is the Reticulate project, funded by the EU, which aims to test an integrated system of social inclusion support where vulnerable people can access all the services they need in ‘one stop shops’ in four areas in Tuscany, Italy.

“We have experienced several barriers in the integration of services -including personal ones such as mistrust among people, cultural clashes, as well as administrative problems, like timing, bureaucracy, or lack of skills explained Alessio Arces, Reticulate Project Manager.

Social, health and employment services integration and change factors

Andreas Nikolajsen, who works with Danish employment services highlighted how they took the Housing First approach and implemented it through a jobs first programme that focuses  on getting the person into work first and then addressing the challenges they face. 

For Alia Kamlani, who leads public sector’s transformation at Deloitte Canada focused on the growing role of AI and automation in public services to help with the provision of support more effectively.

Amira Bieber, Project Manager at Pro Arbeit, Germany and Begoña Lopez, Head of Asturias Observatory of Social Services in Spain shared their practical experience about the importance of offering human-centre services through a multi-stakeholder approach and the importance of integrating social protection schemes like minimum income with social and employment services. “We are requesting people using services to use an increasing number of systems, so it makes sense that we provide them in a more integrated manner”, explained Ms Lopez.

Concluding the webinar ESN’s CEO Alfonso Lara Montero highlighted the role of social services in reaching out and leading multi-agency programmes with some of the most vulnerable populations as well as the role of technology. “Digital tools can be a key driver of whole-person approaches and integrated programmes, but we need to ensure they are implemented in an inclusive manner” -said Mr Montero.

Watch the discussion here.

Be part of the conversation at the European Social Services Conference

This webinar was organised in the framework of our preparatory work for the European Social Services Conference on 14-16 June in Malmö. Digital technology in coordinating social protection services, digital apps for active inclusion, AI profiling for better employment results or the integration of benefits and services will feature within the dozens of sessions available. Register by 6 June to secure your place and participate in the discussions.