After months of ensuring the provision of essential social services to the most vulnerable, and despite the significant challenges brought about by the Covid-19 virus, the European social services sector met with European Union (EU) representatives to discuss how the EU can support the sector.
Recognising social services as essential services
On 25 June 2020, the European social services sector met representatives of EU institutions to discuss the role the EU can play in supporting the sector during the Covid-19 crisis. While acknowledging that social services responsibilities mostly fall at national, regional and local levels, the European social services networks, social partner organisations and other groups representing social services, shared their experience from the local level and put forward concrete suggestions to EU representatives present at the meeting.
Importantly, EU institutions representatives agreed with the sector that social services have been and will continue to be, essential during the Covid-19 pandemic. This recognition is a first step in the right direction. As European Social Network’s (ESN) Chief Executive Alfonso Montero put it during the opening remarks of the event: “Designating social services as ‘essential’ is crucial to ensure access to protective equipment, better resource allocation, and maintaining and adapting social services operations.”
Social services representatives put forward concrete demands
During the event, representatives of social services providers shared their experiences in delivering social services to different vulnerable groups despite the pandemic and put forward several demands to the EU. Among these, Ana Radulescu and Martins Moors, from organisations which are members of ESN, contributed to the discussion.
Sharing her experience of working with children and families, Ana Radulescu from the Centre for Training and Skills Assessment in Social Work (Romania), outlined the difficulties her organisation is encountering in the delivery of services as the number of children and families in need of support has risen. This has led to additional pressure on public community services in the absence of an increased budget allocation. Ms Radulescu agreed with colleagues that the EU needs to strengthen legal frameworks, provide sustainable funding to social services and invest in social services’ professionals and technological innovation. Martins Moors, from Riga City Council (Latvia), stressed the urgent need for action in order to guarantee access to accessible and high-quality social services for those in need. He also reiterated the importance of investing in cohesion policy and clarifying the definition of EU minimum quality standards of social services.
Social services request funding support from the EU
The European social services sector needs the EU to recognise social services as essential services, ensuring immediate and long-term sustainable funding.
As reminded by ESN’s CEO Alfonso Montero, the sector is now reaping a bitter harvest from over a decade of failure to adequately invest in services. A specific allocation for social services within the EU recovery plan would offer frontline services hope that they will be able to access the resources they need to provide the best possible support.
European Association of Service Providers for People with Disabilities (n.d.). Social services and Covid-19: what role for EU?
European Social Network (n.d.). Social services responses to Covid-19 crisis
European Social Network (n.d.). Protecting children in times of crisis
European Social Network (n.d.). How have social services responded to Covid-19 and can plan for the future?
European Social Network (n.d.). Public social services are essential services
European Social Network (n.d.). How EU financial instruments can support local social services