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Will the EU elections bring a more social Europe?

Over the last three days the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) has joined key stakeholders, including the European Commission, to raise awareness of the need for greater workforce development in the support services sector; increased investment into early childhood intervention and for the potential opportunities combining EU funding and financing schemes can bring. While the EU seems to be clear on the direction to take, the next European Parliament elections will certainly have a great impact on the extent to which the EU will continue to pursue a strong agenda for social policy.
On the 20th of May 2019 EASPD took part in the Annual Convention on Inclusive Growth, an annual  European Commission initiative bringing together civil society organisations and policymakers to discuss how to achieve truly inclusive growth.
EASPD co-organised a side event on workforce and staff related issues in cooperation with the Federation of European Social Employers and the European Public Service Union to bring attention to the need for the over 8 million professionals employed in the social sector to receive adequate training and re-training as well as to benefit from more decent working conditions. The support services sector is facing shortages of staff due to the low attractiveness of the sector compared to other sectors. The role of these professionals is essential to guarantee quality services and individualised support in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Failing to properly recognise and address these issues poses the risk that rising demand of support services in society will not be met and overall service provision will be put under threat.
EASPD Secretary General Luk Zelderloo stated that “investing in social services workforce is essential for inclusive growth and for achieving the objectives of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The EU should be more ambitious in tackling working conditions, career opportunities and labour force diversity in the social work”.
On the 21st and 22nd of May, EASPD attended the European Social Fund Transnational Platform conference – an event where EU social sector leaders, EU and national managing authorities, as well as service beneficiaries gathered to share good practices on the use of the European Social Fund (ESF) and discuss how to improve its impact for both service beneficiaries and managing authorities.
EASPD supported the organisation of an event on early childhood intervention – an area where the lack of support services is still a reality in many countries and where the benefits have proven particularly positive for children, their families and society as a whole. The European Social Fund has supported the development of many projects in this field, however, concerns have been raised on the sustainability of the practices developed when these do not become part of an overall state funded intervention upon the end of the ESF funding period.
Aside to this practical example, EASPD also organised a workshop on the use of ESF grants in combination with the European Fund for Strategic Investment’s (EFSI) loans. Though a rather unexplored approach to date, at least in the social field, the participants to the workshop shared interest and provided recommendations to the EU institutions on how to break down the bottlenecks. In particular, issues related to capacity building needs for the beneficiaries were raised along with the need for the various funds to address the needs of beneficiaries to create positive impact on the ground. The participants agreed that ESF has developed extensive expertise and know-how to support projects with positive social outcomes and that EFSI should learn from this experience.
Speaking at the event, EASPD’s Investment Policy Advisor Thomas Bignal confirmed that “the solid quality standards that are included in the ESF regulations as well as its linkages to EU’s main social policy frameworks such as the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Semester should be of inspiration to EFSI and its future follow up programme InvestEU”.
Events as those above always generate optimism and help to showcase the many important achievements of the EU for the life of millions of EU citizens. It also showcases the recognition given to EASPD – and the work of our members – by the EU institutions. EASPD reiterates the importance to vote at the European elections and help thereby to support the next EU leaders in shaping the European Union’s social policy agenda for the future.

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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 support 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:

Sabrina Ferraina
EASPD Policy Manager
T. +32 2 233 27 25