ESN’s Reference Group on the European Semester met with the European Commission to discuss key social policy issues.

Since 2014 ESN has been running a Reference Group on the European Semester, offering a platform for dialogue between social services and policy-makers at European level. The Group met on 27-28 June 2019 with the European Commission to discuss how European initiatives are being implemented at local level. 

The Group focussed on three important issues affecting social local policies:

1.    The adequacy of the social protection system to address poverty
2.    Growing challenges linked to homelessness and social housing 
3.    Overall quality of social services

Poverty and Social Protection

The Group discussed the mixed situation in Europe on benefits and services. The key issues raised were limited access and adequacy of social benefits hampered by a complex arrangement of competences among different services. Two examples were presented during the meeting. Both called for personalised plans that include the expectations, skills, and needs of people:

1.    The Italian National Plan to fight poverty, Reddito di Cittadinanza (citizens’ Income) 
2.    The Belgian Federal Plan on the fight against poverty 2016-2019

Homelessness and Social Housing 

Access to social housing is limited, with rising housing prices and a lack of effective social housing strategies. Addressing homelessness is therefore an increasingly important issue for social services

While homelessness is on the rise, it is not adequately matched by financial resources and systematic data collection on homelessness is lacking. An integrated response for the social inclusion of homeless people is urgently needed.

Quality of social services

Limited accessibility and poor integration of services remain two of the main challenges. Issues related to workforce (such as a shortage of social workers, lack of adequate skills, low wages and excessive workload) are also negatively affecting the quality of social services.

Finally, funding remains a major issue in times where budget cuts are still hitting public social services.

In terms of the monitoring and evaluation of social services, two examples of quality frameworks were presented from Denmark and Czech Republic both highlighting that:

1.    Standards are not sufficiently adapted to different types of services and target groups 
2.    How standards can be measured and inspected 
3.    The high administrative burden on both local authorities and service providers

Next steps

Our 2019 European Semester report will be published in October. It will include country profiles, European level analysis and policy recommendations based on the work of our Reference Group.

Resources

•    ESN toolkit ‘Tools for Inclusive activation’
•    ESN report ‘Connecting social services to Europe’ 
•    ESN Report ‘Integrated social services in Europe’
•    ESN report ‘Investing in social services workforce’