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Strengthening social rights

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On 24 April, Social Services Europe - an umbrella organisation representing not-for-profit social and healthcare providers, including the Red Cross EU Office - presented its position paper with key recommendations on the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) at an event at the European Parliament. The event was hosted by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Georgi Pirinski (S&D, Bulgaria), who brought representatives of EU institutions and civil society together to discuss the steps needed to successfully put the Pillar into practice and to examine the specific role of social and health care providers.

Quality social services are fundamental to ensuring the implementation of at least 10 out of the 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Principles addressed by social services range from inclusive education, training and lifelong learning, active support to employment, inclusion of people with disabilities, provision of long-term care or access to essential services. Together with the health sector, social services employ about 11% of the work force in the EU.

“We should use the momentum created by the Pillar to push for a more social agenda" stressed Luk Zelderloo, President of Social Services Europe.

From left to right: Sofia Ribeiro (MEP, EPP), Luk Zelderloo (President of Social Services Europe), Georgi Pirinski (MEP, S&D, Bulgaria), Ruth Paserman (Deputy Head of Cabinet, European Commission, DG Employment,), 24 April 2018, Brussels. © Social Services Europe

Investment is needed to put the Pillar into practice

Panelists agreed that the implementation of the EPSR requires legal and financial frameworks with adequate resources to match the needs and ambition within the pillar, making the need for enhanced social investment more relevant than ever. As the EU negotiates the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), it is essential to guarantee that EU funds continue to support social inclusion and cohesion in European societies.

“These twenty principles are statements of huge ambition" said Heather Roy, Secretary General of Eurodiaconia. “We need to move out of the hierarchical thinking, which places economic stability policies first, and then social policies”, she added. “We must understand that social services are essential for a stable economy (...) they are needed by each one of us at different stages of our lives".

From left to right: Heather Roy (Eurodiaconia), Rudi van Dam (Social Protection Committee), MEP Sofia Ribeiro (EPP, Portugal) 24 April 2018, Brussels. © Social Services Europe

Participants also underlined the importance of dedicating sufficient resources to secure the sustainable provision of quality services, especially considering current challenges such as ageing or changing family patterns which result in increased care demands. The social service sector is labour-intensive, and it is therefore crucial to invest in staff and job creation to be able to deliver high quality services. This includes for example, increasing the attractiveness of the sector, fostering the training and education of staff, and improving salaries and work conditions.

Another key issue addressed was the centrality of keeping civil society on board, building on their experience and expertise of delivering services on the ground. Participants called on the EU and its Member States to engage in a structured dialogue and to keep the implementation of the principles high on the agenda.

In his conclusions, Conny Reuter, Secretary General of SOLIDAR, remarked that "there's consensus on the importance of social services in implementing the Pillar, but we need to take this conclusion outside, which is not always easy, and mobilise at national, regional and local levels". MEP Georgi Pirinski concluded that “the European Pillar of Social Rights encompases not only principles but rights. There should be strong commitment to taking action”.

Access the Social Services Europe position paper and key messages.