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Access to high-quality social services

Definition

Every citizen, especially the most disadvantaged, should be able to count on quality social services such as

  • early childhood education and care
  • long-term care for the elderly
  • long-term care for people with disabilities
  • social assistance (social welfare or benefits)
  • social housing
  • training and employment services

Challenges

  • Rising demand for social services
  • Increasingly diverse demand: users want better-quality, more user-friendly empowering social services and they want a say in how they are provided.
  • Pressure on the funding of social services due to the economic and financial crisis.
  • Inconsistence between providers of cash benefits and of social services providers.

Policy response

Quality social services are a smart and sustainable investment. As stated in the Social Investment Package (SIP) they

  • help avoid personal challenges and crises
  • make people who are not in employment active again
  • enable them to cope with their personal challenges

The Social Investment Package also stresses the role of high-quality, integrated and personalised services in

  • developing people's skills and capabilities
  • improving the opportunities open to them
  • helping them use their potential to the full throughout the lives

Integrated social services delivery (i.e. one-stop shops) can improve both efficiency and effectiveness. This approach could have a positive impact on cutting costs, avoiding duplication and loopholes, making it easier to pool information and knowledge, and facilitating the identification of needs and adapted responses

The Commission's overview of integrated services in the EU identifies best practices. These include good planning beforehand, monitoring the integration process and keeping reforms manageable.

Background

The EU encourages cooperation between the EU countries to improve the quality of social services.

The European Social Fund and EaSI provide financial support to develop and modernise social services.

The voluntary European Quality Framework for Social Services provides guidance on how to define, provide, assess and improve social services. It is supported by the Commission.

EU rules on social services will be clarified, to make sure public authorities provide a high level of service.

Further reading

  • European Commission: 2008 biennial report on social services of general interest
  • European Commission: 2010 biennial report on social services of general interest
  • The EU Employment and Social Situation Quarterly Review: special supplements on health and social servicesl (2012 and 2014), give an overview of the state of the sector.