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Social services may not always be at the forefront of election campaigns, but they represent important issues that can influence voter decisions and political agendas.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) should prioritise social services in the upcoming European elections for several reasons:

  • Social services are fundamental in assuring the social inclusion of people who may have long-term care needs such as older people or people with disabilities, people who are homeless, children in need of protection or families that require support. By prioritising these issues MEPs, who are elected representatives accountable to European citizens, can better represent the needs and concerns of their constituents.
  • Social services play a crucial role in promoting social cohesion and reducing disparities within and between European countries. MEPs have the opportunity to advance policies that foster inclusive growth, address inequalities, and ensure that all citizens have access to essential services, regardless of their background or circumstances.
  • Investments in social services can have positive effects on economic growth, productivity, and stability. For instance, a well-trained and skilled workforce is essential for providing high-quality social care and social services, which in turn contribute to the overall well-being and productivity of society. MEPs can support policies that prioritise investment in the social services workforce as part of a sustainable and inclusive economic strategy in Europe.
  • Social services are closely linked to core EU values such as solidarity, equality, human dignity and social inclusion. MEPs have a responsibility to uphold these values and ensure that European policies and legislation promote the well-being and social rights of all individuals, including the most vulnerable members of society.
  • While many social policies are primarily the responsibility of national governments, the European Union also plays a significant role in shaping these policies through legislation, funding programmes, and coordination with national governments. MEPs have the power to influence EU policies on social services and advocate for measures that benefit citizens across Europe.

Ahead of the 2024 European elections, the European Social Network (ESN) conducted a survey to find out which issues managers and senior social services professionals think future MEPs should prioritise in next Parliament.

Respondents to ESN’s questionnaire chose four top priorities:

  • Addressing challenges related to social services financing.
  • Quality assurance in social services.
  • The need to change the model of care towards a more person-centred and community-based one.
  • Tackling social services workforce challenges.

It is not surprising that when asked about the most relevant initiatives the EU should launch to support the work of social services, their answers reflected these thematic priorities. With this in mind, ESN has launched a briefing that outlines the measures we request European political parties and MEPs take to strengthen social services and promote social inclusion across Europe. 

These measures involve:

  • Assessing social services sustainable financing in the framework of the European Semester of policy coordination between the EU and national governments.
  • A new European Voluntary Quality Framework in Social Services that is up to date with current best practice and which revolves around improving outcomes for people using social services.
  • A European Community Care initiative which ensures that EU social funds focus on community-based programmes plus a care guarantee for all that would help disadvantaged groups to access the care and support they need.
  • A European Social Services Workforce Strategy that addresses growing demand for professionals and which includes recruitment and retention innovative approaches, mutual recognition of qualifications, and continuing professional development.

While social services priorities may vary depending on the political landscape, prevailing economic conditions, and societal needs, these are common social services priorities that MEPs should consider to build a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable European Union that works for the benefit of all its citizens.

Please access the briefing here.