ESN Members at the local level

ESN visited its members in Germany in a guided tour of various local public social services in Stuttgart, Dortmund, Hamm and Düsseldorf. This is a selection of the services and projects visited by Stephen Barnett, senior policy officer with ESN. Below we’re sharing the practice and experience from Germany.

“I left every one of them enthused not only by the professionalism of the staff I met, but also by their passion for what they are doing,” Stephen says.

Generation House Heslach, Stuttgart
When two wealthy entrepreneurs left a considerable legacy to the City of Stuttgart, it enabled a number of innovative social projects to be set up in the city, among them the Generation House Heslach. It houses three different services: the Care Centre, offering housing and care for dependent younger and older people; the Initiative Centre manages various rooms that are made available to over 40 local community groups; the Mothers’ Centre is an open self-help centre for families.

Local resident Nicole Rau has benefited a lot from the Generation House. When her first child was born, she found the round-the-clock responsibilities “very strenuous”, but found support in the Mothers’ Centre: “You meet other mothers and get to know other people in the district,” she says. “The great thing about the Family Centre concept is the focus on the parents. It offers high-quality educational support and the children are kept busy, meaning that the parents can have some time out.” Later, when her father became seriously ill, he was admitted to the Care Centre in the Generation House: “I just cannot imagine how I could have coped without all these facilities.”

Find out more about the legacy of the Brothers’ Schmid in Stuttgart (German).

Older People’s Centres, Dortmund
“The City of Dortmund has been active and innovative in support for senior citizens for many years,” says Director of Social Services, Peter Bartow. Among the City’s innovations was the establishment of an Older People’s Centre in each of the city’s twelve districts in partnership with local welfare charities. One of these is hosted in the Wilhelm Hansman House, which also hosts a day care centre and is a real centre of activity in the community. Annegret Meyer and Annette Simmgen-Schmude from the Centre explained how they try to engage not just with traditional partners such as doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and home-care providers but also with local shops: they cited an example of an older man with dementia who had been banned from his only local grocery store for (what was seen as) stealing. Speaking with the store manager, they explained his actions and asked to be informed if this happened again in future.

Read an interview with the City’s Head of Older People’s Services, Reinhard Pohlmann and ESN’s interview with 60-year-old local resident, Peter K. speaking about the Older People’s Centres and other local services. Read more on older people’s services in Dortmund (German).

“Plan Bildung”, Hamm’s education strategy
The City of Hamm, 15 minutes from Dortmund by train, is a former centre of heavy industry with coal mines and steelworks. Today, the City’s Office for Children and Youth is keen to promote Hamm as a ‘family-friendly city’ and is mid-way through implementing its education strategy Plan Bildung for 2007-13. One element of this very broad strategy is a pre-school parents’ café at the Hermann Gmeiner Primary School, where mothers, mostly from a migrant background, are encouraged to get involved with their child’s development. Another element can be seen in action at the Albert Schweitzer Secondary School, where pupils who have had vocational schooling get a lot of practical support in the transition to working life. Various special projects have been made possible through the European Social Fund’s programme “StärkenVor Ort”. The strategy’s overall goal is to equip all children and young people with the necessary competences to integrate into the world of work and socially, with a keen eye on health promotion.

Find out more about Hamm’s Plan Bildung and their European social projects in Hamm North. Hamm is also a Member of Cities for Children, a European network set up by the City of Stuttgart.

With special thanks to Stefan Spatz, ReinhardPohlmann, Theodor Hesse and Barbara Kinne.