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Since the first European Voluntary Quality Framework for Social Services was issued by the EU’s Social Protection Committee in 2010, the way we ensure quality and social services delivery in general has evolved. In 2022, the European Social Network (ESN) established a new working group to gather evidence on how to update the 2010 framework. In its first meeting at the end of last year, the working group identified key trends and principles to be considered for future European guidance on social services quality. Our recent briefing summarises the findings.

Trends Impacting Quality Assurance in Social Services

In the framework of the 2022 ESN Working Group on quality in social services, the following trends impacting social services quality assurance have been identified so far:

1. A shift from input based to output based quality measurement

2. Care is centred on the person’s (and carer’s) needs

3. A shift from institutional to home, family and community-based services

4. The increasing role of quality standards and improvement agencies

5. A culture shift from quality monitoring to continuous improvement

6. Self-assessment as part of continuous improvement

7. External quality certification

8. Integration of health and social care

9. Procurement and quality in social services

10. Personal budgets.

Identifying Central Quality Principles

Inspired by the quality principles mentioned in current European and national frameworks, ESN’s working group discussed principles which should form the basis of a new European cross sectoral quality assurance framework. These encompass principles such as human-rights-based, safe, outcomes-oriented, person-centred, respect, partnership and trust, choice, empowering, easy to access, community-based, transparent, integrated and comprehensive, accountability, well-resourced/well-funded, a supported workforce. These principles need to be translated into objectives, standards, and measurable indicators.

Making Proposals for a new Cross-Sectoral Quality Framework at EU level

The working group participants agreed that the EU has a central role in supporting the development of EU-wide principles and standards for quality in social services. The right to access quality social services is notably enshrined in principles 11, 18 and 19 of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Sectoral frameworks related to specific services such as the recently launched initiatives on childcare or long-term care may be developed but they need to be based on an updated cross-sectoral framework, and they must be consistent with it. The working group, which will run until 2025 will elaborate a proposal for a new Cross-Sectoral Quality Framework reflecting recent and relevant trends to help identify central principles of quality and a common language for standards.  Download the briefing ‘Driving Up Quality’ here.

An Executive Summary is available in EnglishFrenchGermanItalian and Spanish.