Since the beginning COVID-19 crisis, Public Authorities across Europe have regularly failed to provide guarantees to social services so that they can continue to provide basic crucial care and support to 100,000s of persons with support needs, including persons with disabilities. The recently launched European Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative makes no reference to the social crisis, nor provides any legal guarantees for social service providers to be able to benefit from this new EU initiative, as is the case for SMEs and others. The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities calls for the European Union to take immediate action to ensure that EU funds reach social services on-the-ground to mitigate the crisis.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, social services and their 11 million-strong workforce have acted urgently and flexibly to ensure that persons with disabilities get access to the basic support they need and in safe conditions. Across Europe, these social care and support providers have quickly adapted their services to the COVID-19 context, for instance by
- prioritising face-to-face contact to service users who need it to have their basic needs met, as Support has done in Catalonia, Spain.
- shifting their other services online to support service users and their families, as Inspire has done in Malta.
- creating easy-to-read and other accessible forms of communication to explain the crisis and the changes needed, as Unapei has done in France.
- transforming their social entreprises to:
- facilitate public health response (laundry for hospitals, hotels for healthcare workers, etc), as ONCE has done in Spain.
- create various equipment (masks, ventilators, gloves, gels, etc), as Maatwerk has done in Flanders, Belgium.
Yet many of these initiatives are being done with little to no support from public authorities:
- no guarantees on covering current costs to keep the services running
- threat of funding cuts as the services are no longer fully in line with the service contracts
- postponement of funding opportunities, which could lead to financial gaps
- little support to ensure frontline care and support staff have access to the basic personal protective equipment they need (masks, etc)
Ms Sabrina Ferraina, Policy Manager EASPD, says “Many social providers are running their services without any funding guarantees from public authorities. Because human lives are at stake! But this is not sustainable on the long-run: wages need to be paid and equipment needs to be bought. Politicians and public authorities must back-up their promises with action and guarantee funding for social services, immediately!”
The European Union has recently launched the European Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, which aims to unblock €37 billion of unused EU funds to help Member States respond to the crisis. On this initiative, Mr Luk Zelderloo adds “this initiative does not even refer to the social crisis and brings zero guarantees for social service providers, as it does for farmers and others. This is yet another missed opportunity for the EU to focus on the social, not just the economic! What we need now is clear guidance from the Commission on how Member States should use these EU funds to guarantee funding for care and support provision.”
The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), representing over 17.000 social service providers, strongly urges the European Commission to
- give a clear message to public authorities that the funding of social services across Europe should be guaranteed as a matter of urgency and that EU fiscal, legal and funding instruments will support this effort;
- ensure that the European Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative brings funding support to social care and support providers for persons with disabilities to ensure continuity of care and support in this time of crisis;
- Develops targeted guidelines for Member States to ensure that EU funds are used in a flexible way to meet the real needs of social service providers;
- Take measures to promote the prioritisation of personal protective equipment for professionals working in social services for persons with disabilities, in daily contact with millions of Europeans most at risk.
EASPD will continue to engage with the European Institutions to put these recommendations in practice in order to maximise the impact of European initiatives at local level.
- EASPD and EAN open letter on Ensuring EU Response to COVID-19 tackles threat of social care emergency
- EASPD Priorities for EU Response to COVID-19 regarding threat to Social Service Provision
- Joining Forces! EASPD COVID-19 Support Space
- EASPD Webinar Recording: Ensuring staff continuity in social services during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Registrations for EASPD Webinar: The role of funding for support services in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic on 8th April
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.