On 4th December, the Steering Board for Social Infrastructure and Mr Alfred Sant MEP co-organised the European Parliament event “InvestEU & the Economy of Well-being: making the most of local know-how”. With over 130 participants, the Steering Board for Social Infrastructure engaged with EU policy makers and investors on concrete steps to ensure that InvestEU brings genuine solutions to high-quality and innovative social, health, education, and housing projects. The major recommendation was to ensure that the Steering Board becomes a formal Advisory Partner to help InvestEU reach its social impact potential in local communities across Europe.
The European Union has been increasingly active in trying to boost private investment in Europe, including in the social sectors. The European Commission has recently proposed a new InvestEU program, currently under negotiation, which builds on previous EU initiatives and aims to improve access to finance (typically, loans) for social projects with a dedicated window for “Social investment and skills”.
The Steering Board for Social Infrastructure (SBSI) was created in 2017, in part to provide a cross-sectoral and representative partner for the European institutions to improve the impact of EU Investment initiatives in the social, health, education, housing and ageing sectors. SBSI brings together major representatives of the social services, health, education, social and affordable housing and ageing sectors at European level. Together, these sectors enable all persons in Europe to access their human and social rights, to live healthier, to be empowered and to live in dignity. They also enable the economy to function better, fairer and more sustainably, as highlighted by the Council Conclusions on the Economy of Wellbeing.
All of these fields of activity have funding gaps and lack investment. Whilst addressing the public funding gap must continue to be the N°1 priority for the European Union, the proposed InvestEU programme can be an opportunity to boost access to finance for social infrastructure development.
Opening the event, Mr Alfred Sant, Member of the European Parliament highlighted the “need for local social projects to not fall outside of the loop of InvestEU. Although small in EU terms, these are often crucial in the social & economic development of communities”.
Ms Kerstin Jorna, Deputy Director General at DG Economic and Financial Affairs, European Commission, welcomed the event “as key to developing the products we need for the future”, whilst remarking “the Economy that Works for People is more than a mantra, it is part of objectives of the EU treaty”. Ms Katarina Ivanković-Knežević, Director at DG Employment and Social Affairs, European Commission, outlined how “we need to better link InvestEU with other programs such as the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund +”.
Mr Luk Zelderloo, Secretary General of the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities and SBSI member, confirmed “the potential of InvestEU for social impact”; yet highlighted “the risk is that InvestEU fails to reach the most impactful social projects, which are often bottom-up, community-based and require more targeted technical expertise. Luckily for the European Commission and Investors, they have a ready-made solution: the Steering Board for Social Infrastructure and our ability to understand and engage with our local membership. We must become advisory partners to bridge the gap!”
The event also allowed the SBSI to present their Joint Position “InvestEU and the Economy of Wellbeing: making the most of local know-how”, which includes 5 targeted recommendations on how to maximise the social impact of InvestEU. The event marked the first step towards more formal cooperation between the EU institutions, the Investors and the social sectors targeted by InvestEU.
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Note to editors
The Steering Board for Social Infrastructure Investment brings together the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), Eurohealthnet, Lifelong Learning Platform, Housing Europe, AGE Platform, FEANTSA & the European Social Network. Together, we represent thousands of both public and private organisations providing services which enable millions of people in Europe to access their human and social rights, to live healthier, to be empowered and to live in dignity, as well as the largest European network of organisations of and for older persons.