Social Services is an umbrella term for a wide range of care and support activities in the health and social sector. Many public and private organisations deliver social services to people requiring help in facing difficult situations, either because they are without work, a home, family and friends, or because they are living with sickness, disability, discrimination, violence, abuse or crime. Social services are not a niche sector, but an essential component of social protection systems. EU Member States allocate up to 50% of their national budgets to financing health and social services, and millions of people across the EU benefit from social services daily.
EU social policies have been a work in progress for many years, with numerous treaties and strategies reflecting considerable efforts to enhance the social dimension of the Union. The Europe 2020 strategy places high priority on Inclusive Growth, with a variety of ambitions aimed at reducing the gaps between the rich and poor in European society. One area of the EU’s action is investment in social infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, prisons, or community housing.
A large number of service providers are not-for-profit organisations that prioritise the quality of services over financial gain. They consider their work a service to the community, an expression of solidarity, and a contribution to safeguarding the well-being, rights and dignity of fellow citizens. Under the guiding principles of responding to the needs of vulnerable groups, alleviating human suffering, and helping people to lead a life in dignity and good physical and mental health, National Red Cross Societies in the EU deliver health and social services at the local level in thousands of communities across Europe.
The Red Cross EU Office and Social Services
The Red Cross EU Office follows European developments related to health and social services in the EU. We help our members to build partnerships, develop joint activities, and exchange their experiences and good practices in the social and health care sector. In the scope of the Internal Market, EU legislation has substantial impact on service provision, for example with EU laws on public procurement. Across the range of EU policies, programmes and practices linked to social services, we advocate the interests of service users, as well as those of service providers.
For a variety of topics, we have joined forces with likeminded European networks and established Social Services Europe, an EU-level platform voicing the interests of not-for-profit social service providers. Together, we provide EU policy and decision makers with insights into the daily practice of delivering social services at the local level, as well as alerting them to developments and challenges faced in the field, such as questions around the financing of social services, or the job creation potential of the health and care sector.