A new study on ‘Integrated delivery of social services aiming at the activation of minimum income recipients in the labour market – success factors and reform pathways’ to be published on April 2018 explores drivers for, and barriers to, reforms that could improve coordination between employment agencies and social services aimed at minimum income recipients (MIR). MIR are usually working-age individuals who may be unemployed or economically inactive. Often, they face multiple barriers to returning to the labour market, and need support from social, housing and health services in addition to employment services.

This latest study suggests that coordinated delivery of social services is essential to ensuring that MIR have full access in the labour market, while acknowledging that the degree of such coordination and integration varies between EU Member States. The study analyses integrated services reforms in 12 countries and describes two main reform pathways: an ‘encompassing model’ and ‘institutionalised cooperation’. The first pathway implies a redistribution of competences between the national and the local level, whereas the second pathway is built on various degrees of cooperation between institutions.

The report concludes that the first pathway is more appropriate for countries where existing services are developed and accessible, whilst pathway two may be more relevant for countries where employment or social services are less developed or highly fragmented. Pathway two may also be more suitable for countries where complex constitutional changes are not possible in the short term, the report suggests.

Various European legislation and policy initiatives support the need for reforms aiming to improve integration and coordination of services. These include the Communication on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market (2008), the Social Investment Package (2013), the Recommendation on the integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market (2016) and the European Pillar of Social Rights (2017).

The story so far: ESN’s work on integrated services

ESN’s report on integrated services analyses how social services provide support in conjunction with

other public services, namely, education, employment and health across Europe. Within ESN ‘integrated services’ refers to the range of activities implemented to achieve more efficient coordination between services and improved outcomes for service users, while taking into account different sectors, target groups and governance contexts. 

ESN identifies several key elements that enable integrated working in public services, including inter -professional teamwork, a well -functioning delivery system, ICT and new technologies, funding, commitment, innovation, learning, outcomes measurement and sustainability.

Based on a literature review of policy and practice and the results of a seminar, the report outlines recommendations for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers to improve the coordination of services. These include:


  • Draft guidelines for the involvement of users and/or user associations in the formulation and development of policies.
  • Create funding frameworks that allow shared financing of integrated services.
  • Support the creation of one-stop-shops across different service sectors.
  • Create incentives for engaging informal carers and volunteers.
  • Equip the workforce with relevant skills to implement integrated services.
  • Develop transparent and effective pathways for users.
  • Establish leadership arrangements for cross-sectoral cooperation.
  • Conduct research about the effectiveness/efficiency of integrated services.
  • Carry out participative research projects.
  • Train students and junior researchers on the benefits of applied research.
Next steps: ESN work on active Inclusion and integrated services in 2018

In 2018, ESN will focus on active inclusion by organising a thematic panel discussion during the 26th European Social Services Conference and at a seminar in November. It will also publish a toolkit on how to support people furthest from the labour market to be actively and socially included.

At the Conference a panel discussion on integrated services to improve social and active inclusion will showcase examples of integration of services to support long-term unemployed people from Spain, Italy and Denmark.

Through these activities, ESN aims to improve understanding and share examples of good practice on active inclusion of different vulnerable groups, to support public authorities and social services overcoming challenges, and to maximise opportunities to socially and actively including vulnerable people. Finally, ESN aims to improve integration of services and public/private partnerships supporting this target group.