Are adequate and affordable social services a priority in Europe 2020?

The Annual Growth Survey (AGS) 2012 made tackling the social impact of the crisis one of its five priorities and advised Member States to give priority to “adequate and affordable social services to prevent marginalisation of vulnerable groups” in their National Reform Programmes (NRPs) for 2012.

ESN members from eight countries have assessed the National Reform Programmes and have found that social services are hardly mentioned. The NRPs focused on economy and employment in the main. Where they did refer to social issues, they tended to emphasise labour market activation and education. There was little reference to older people with care needs, those with a disability or a mental health problem, for example.

If Europe is to promote truly ‘inclusive growth’ as per the Europe 2020 Strategy, then the most vulnerable and marginalised need to be visible in the NRPs. In line with the first recommendation to make sure those at the margins of society are visible, there is a concurrent need to recognise those essential social services (and indeed wider public services and policy efforts) that aim to help them overcome or manage challenging life circumstances and achieve social inclusion.

Towards the Annual Growth Survey 2013
ESN believes that social inclusion of vulnerable groups could be linked to social investment and social innovation in the European Semester 2013. It proposes that the AGS and the next round of NRPs concentrate on:

  • Investment in quality and sustainable social services that help both those citizens worst affected by the crisis and those who were already facing severe social exclusion, to address any underlying issues, such as a disability or poor mental health as well as immediate material needs.
  • Promotion of social innovation to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of social protection systems, giving vulnerable citizens the best chance of achieving social inclusion and wellbeing.

Read ESN's short report with proposals Are ‘adequate and affordable’ social services a priority in Europe 2020?