EU Neighbourhood Policy

TAIEX is the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument managed by the Directorate-General for Enlargement in the European Commission. TAIEX supports partner countries with regard to EU legislation. Every year it organises over 1,000 seminars, study visits and training sessions and provides various other forms of demand-led support to central, regional and local government as well as NGOs in countries neighbouring the EU.

One such seminar was recently organised in Poltava, Ukraine in cooperation with the Ukrainian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy on the issue ‘Social services for vulnerable groups’. The objective of the seminar was to identify problems affecting socially vulnerable groups in Ukraine, to present a different model of social services delivery in EU Member States and to identify ways forward for social services on the ground.

A small delegation of ESN experts were invited to speak at this event to present views both from national and pan-European perspectives.

Alexis Jay, Chief Social Work Advisor to the Scottish Government, spoke about ‘Social Care Governance’ and barriers to improve performance in social services. Ms Jay explained the division of responsibilities between local and national government in Scotland and emphasised the role of the independent social care inspectorate. She emphasised the importance of good leadership and management: “Supervision by an experienced, qualified person enables staff to question their practice, provides support and encourages evidence-based practice”.

Aidan Browne, former CEO of Ireland’s Children Acts Advisory Board and currently Director of Twenty Twenty Management Solutions gave a presentation on interagency work, which he defined as “any joint action by two or more agencies that is intended to increase public value by their working together rather than separately”. It can involve the exchange of information, altering activities, sharing resources and actively enhancing the capacity of other agencies for mutual benefit. Referring to six recent organisational case studies, Browne offered 15 top tips. He warned delegates that interagency work is not easy, but was decidedly worthwhile.

Ágnes Simonyi, Independent Advisor for the Hungarian Institute of Family and Social Policy, discussed the ‘Challenges and Opportunities of Deinstitutionalisation and Developing Community Care for Vulnerable People’. Ms Simonyi clarified that deinstitutionalisation is not simply about replacing large institutions with smaller units, but about creating person-centred care packages that enable individuals to live in the community. In Ms Simonyi’s view, this can be achieved through “values-based education and training of future social and health workers and clear political leadership and professional support to community care”.

Reflecting on the seminar discussions, ESN experts agreed that mutual learning and policy and practice exchange are the (best) ways forward for the modernisation of social services in Europe.