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EASPD’s 1st Social Services Week: lessons learnt!

Last week, the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) organised its first Social Services Week. Over 500 speakers and participants enjoyed 7 different events covering issues as diverse as the planning of social services at local level to inclusive education, to personal and household services. One main message appeared throughout: COVID-19 has re-affirmed the need to strengthen a disability services system built on the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The European Union should help forge a space for innovation in the sector.
 
Between the 7th and 11th December, EASPD organised its first Social Services Week. Hosting a number of online events, the week highlighted the essential nature of disability services, not just for persons with disabilities but also for the achievements of the EU’s core values. The week also provided the opportunity to take stock of 2020, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how to move forward in the near future.
 
The Webinar 'Disability Services as Social Rights Enablers' highlighted the essential role that support services play to empower persons with disabilities to enjoy their social rights, such as access to employment, community and independent living or access to childcare and early intervention services. Professor Gerard Quinn, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the continuity and stability of service systems and referred to the added value the EU can bring in creating space for innovation and towards planning services which support the personhood, autonomy, belonging and inclusion of persons with disabilities. 
 
The transition to inclusive education was also on the week’s agenda with too many learners with disabilities still excluded from mainstream education systems. The ‘Promoting positive attitudes and evidence-based policy for inclusive education’ project’s Final Conference highlighted that negative attitudes towards inclusion and a lack of political will remain key challenges to the realisation of inclusive education systems. Moving forward, co-production is a central tool for the achievement of more inclusive learning environments, while the European Education Area and the new European Disability Strategy provide key opportunities for the EU to promote inclusive education.
 
Community living is also at the heart of the work of EASPD, which is why the Ad-PHS Final Conference showcased tailored guidance and promising practices from across Europe to develop the sectors involved in Personal and Household Services, including all forms of care and support at home. The planning of social services plays a crucial role to promoting community living. The CISCOS project’s Final Conference launched its training course for professionals in disability services and local authorities on connecting inclusive social planning, community development and integrated service provision for persons with disabilities.
 
Concluding the Social Services Week, Mr Jim Crowe, President of EASPD, said “this week has demonstrated the importance of our sector in empowering persons with disabilities in all areas of their lives, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been able to build a truly European vision on how disability services should be developed. 2021 will be a busy year on the European social policy agenda, with its upcoming European Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights, the next European Disability Strategy and the Child Guarantee. This week has provided the European Union with all the information it needs to ensure that its upcoming initiatives recognise the value of disability services. EASPD will certainly hold the EU to account in 2021”.

Supporting Documents:
Note to editors

The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit European umbrella organization, established in 1996, and currently representing over 17,000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the UN CRPD principles, which could bring benefits not only to persons with disabilities, but to society as a whole.
 

For more information please contact:

Rachel Vaughan
EASPD Operations Manager
rachel.vaughan@easpd.eu

Thomas Bignal
EASPD Policy Manager
thomas.bignal@easpd.eu