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Solidarity and community’ are proudly represented at the fore as Sweden steps into their presidential term at the Council of the European Union, which began on 1 January 2023. The Swedish Presidency is taking over during the most significant crises of the 21st Century, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis, and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, but how is it planning to address the subsequent increasing demand for social services within the next six months?

Independent living for older people

On 13-14 February, in a high-level meeting on active and autonomous ageing, the Swedish Presidency will discuss how to provide sustainable and quality care for older people in an ageing population. ESN’s CEO, Alfonso Lara Montero, will be speaking at the high-level meeting to discuss our proposals for the implementation of a European care strategy that provides a care guarantee for people in need.

Strengthening the rights of children

In the context of the forthcoming report of the High-Level Group on the future of social protection and of the welfare state in the EU, which will be presented at an event where ESN’s CEO will speak, the Swedish Presidency will strive to strengthen and integrate the rights of the child. However, the presidency has not mentioned how this will be achieved, nor has it organised an event to discuss this issue. Security issues are heavily cited in the Presidency programme following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic, yet as ESN has highlighted, these crises have disrupted the lives of millions of children, denying their fundamental rights. There is a great need for the critical role that public social services play in protecting the rights of children.  

Protecting human rights for people with disabilities

The Swedish Presidency intends to use the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to highlight core disability policy issues “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of human rights for people with disabilities.” ESN recently highlighted some of the barriers preventing people with disabilities from entering employment and the need for strong partnerships involving the public, community and business sectors, as well as the need for better coordination to support the social inclusion of people with disabilities (among others) on minimum income schemes.

Advancing digitalisation

Developing new technologies in the field of artificial intelligence is a key priority for the Swedish Presidency as it hopes to achieve an increasingly innovative, sustainable, and inclusive Europe. Technology and digitalisation innovation supporting autonomy and inclusion is the focus of the 31st European Social Services Conference (ESSC), which ESN will organise in Malmö on 14-16 June 2023 in cooperation with Swedish national and local authorities.

Sharing ESN’s mission to empower Europe's most vulnerable

It is encouraging that the Swedish Presidency is acknowledging the need to support social services to address the aftermath of Covid-19, the invasion of Ukraine, and the cost-of-living crisis. ESN looks forward to working with the Swedish Presidency to ensure that the concerns of public social services working with older people, children, and people with disabilities are heard and addressed.

Author: Hannah McDonnell