ESN Working Group on Disability

The European Social Network (ESN) held the opening meeting of the Working Group on Disability in Brighton on 4-5 December, marking the International Day of People with Disabilities on 3 December.

The working group aims to develop practical knowledge and recommendations on the planning, managing and delivery of quality, person-centred services for people with disabilities. ESN members participating in the project were selected for their expertise in the field; they have a background in managing services for people with disabilities in local authorities or in applied research.

Daily challenges in managing services for people with disabilities

ESN members across Europe discussed a number of reforms taking place in disability services with the aim to promote social inclusion and better meet users’ needs. They also shared daily challenges in managing services for people with disabilities.

Marion Meany, Head of Operations and Services Improvement of Disability Services in Ireland, described the far-reaching reform currently taking place at national level. Services are being reassessed in order to better meet users’ needs, be more cost-effective and ensure the development of community-based care. In Aarhus, the second biggest municipality in Denmark, there is a wide range of initiatives and services to enhance empowerment, active citizenship and user-managed solutions for people with disabilities, as described by Carsten Hansen, Head of the Department of Social Affairs and Employment.

“In order to provide good quality and personalised services for persons with disabilities, we first need to create a new attitude and staff culture, based on the participation and motivation of all members of the community.” Jouni Nummi, Director of the Joint Municipal Authority for Social Services, Finland

European policies in the field of disability

Working group participants also looked at the broader context of European policies and initiatives in the field of disability. Alan Roulstone, Professor of Disability Studies at the University of Leeds, assessed the potential implications for independent living of a number of international legal and policy frameworks such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the European Disability Strategy, and the EU 2020 Strategy.

Nevena Peneva, from the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) described their ongoing project on the implementation of the principle of independent living at local level, a topic to which ESN members have much to contribute.

“Effective information sharing is crucial; when implementing our national database, we wanted to avoid time-consuming duplication of work, and above all, make a difference for service users.” Marina Drobi, Project Officer at the National Solidarity Fund for Autonomy, France

Next steps

The working group will hold four thematic meetings over the next two years, each one focusing on a specific dimension of managing services for people with disabilities:

  • service integration and integrated support
  • accessibility and users’ involvement in designing and evaluating services
  • active inclusion of people with disabilities in the labour market
  • developing quality standards and an adequate market of services.

For each topic, participants will be invited to provide examples of practices, thus contributing to building a comprehensive, documented overview of services for people with disabilities across Europe.


ESN members can access the presentations and more resources from the meeting on the project’s page in the Members’ Area

If you are interested in participating in one of the meetings, please get in touch.