On 15 January 2014 the European Parliament adopted a new Public Procurement directive which recognizes the specific identity of social services, and, because of this, entitles them to a specific so called “lighter regime” that requires simpler rules and a stronger focus on quality outcomes.
There is now an increased emphasis on quality rather than price in the criteria that is to be used by Member states and local authorities when awarding contracts for social services. MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender) is now the main criteria upon which to base this decision. It is a set of criteria that includes cost as well as qualitative or social considerations. Member states can decide whether MEAT will be their main method for evaluating bids for social services.
The specificity of social services is recognized also in the higher threshold that has been set for contracting services. This higher threshold acknowledges that social services are provided within a different cultural context amongst Member states and are not subject to the cross-border dimension. Therefore, for contracts under 750,000 € Member states have greater discretion to organize the choice of service providers in a way that state feels is appropriate for its circumstances. For contracts over 750,000 €, the criteria of the Public Procurement directive must be complied with.
However, there are still a few points of concern. It is not compulsory for Member states to follow the quality criteria or to award contracts on the basis of MEAT, so this means that it is still possible for public authorities to award social services on a cost-basis. Furthermore, it is not an obligation that the contracted authorities involve or empower the users of the social services. This is a potential issue because we are working towards a social rights model of care in which persons with disabilities have greater choice in choosing their care so that they can become active citizens in their communities. It is also problematic that the maximum duration of a contract is three years as this undermines the continuity of social services.
Overall, the approach contained within the new Public Procurement directive is an accomplishment for the social services sector and is welcomed by EASPD. We will support our members to make sure that this directive is implemented properly and continue to lobby for further changes in the areas identified.
Here you can find the EASPD Position on the New Directive
Press contact: Ms. Sabrina Ferraina, Tel. +32 2 282 46 15, firstname.lastname@example.org