ESN Working Group on Disability

This article is also available in français, español, italiano, deutsch, polski, português

The second meeting of the ESN Working Group on Disability took place in Brighton on 12-13 March. Senior professionals from local and regional authorities from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom discussed the concept of integrated services in the light of European policies and national practices.

Why integrated services? The European and international context

According to the Council of Europe’s report “Integrated social services in Europe”, there is growing evidence that integrated services can result in better outcomes for users, particularly those with complex needs. People with disabilities may have to navigate between a wide range of services. Integrated services may be a way to achieve a triple objective: addressing increasingly complex life situations through joint solutions, making better use of resources, and achieving better outcomes for users.

In 2013, the European Commission’s Social Investment Package (SIP) called for integrated services, as they can help enhance the effectiveness of social policies to fight inequality and exclusion. Service integration can also contribute to fulfil the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the right to independent living.

Local and regional practices on integration

Sarah Carr, independent research and policy analyst, presented an assessment of several practices submitted by members. Some relate to deinstitutionalisation, such as the Irish project ’Time to move on from congregated settings‘, while others have been developed in response to the continued need to deliver support in a co-ordinated, collaborative and multi-disciplinary manner at the local level, regardless of the existence of a supportive policy framework. Integration was seen as different from other forms of joint work such as collaboration, coordination or partnership. It emerged that there was not a one size fits all model that can be applied to public social services.

Key messages for integrated services

Despite these differences, and the variety of services addressed – be it housing, health or employment – a number of key messages emerged:

  • Services for people with disabilities need to be organised around the person, e.g. through individual assessments and tailored plans.
  • A common vision and objective from all professionals is key in formulating well-adapted support.
  • Transition periods should be treated as a priority, as these are the moments where coordinated support is most needed.
  • Integrated services would be an asset if coupled with quality mechanisms.
  • Strong local communities are crucial for the full inclusion of people with disabilities.

Next steps

A final assessment of integrated services’ practices will be produced in April, feeding into the European Social Network’s 2015 activities on integrated services, including a seminar at the end of the year.

The next meeting of the Disability Working Group will take place later this year and will look at policies and practices on service users’ involvement.