In the framework of the SPC peer reviews, the Dutch government organised a review with representatives from nine other EU member states and two European networks, amongst them ESN, to reflect on the design and the implementation of Social Community Teams in the context of service decentralisation and the fight against poverty in The Netherlands. The European Social Network (ESN) was invited to participate at this peer review to assess the example of SCTs from the point of view of their members and the links with initiatives of other local public social services.

The implementation of the SCTs

According to a survey by the Dutch knowledge institute Movisie, more than 80% of local authorities that responded to the questionnaire (234 out of 394 municipalities) implement SCTs, which deal with a wide range of issues at the local level, including mental health problems, social exclusion, long-term-unemployment, or youth care. Poverty has actually emerged as one of the key issues addressed by professionals working within the SCTs. SCTs deliver key services such as assessments of users’ needs in order to develop appropriate responses involving social services, care, education, housing, and the police.

Social Community Teams models

SCTs operate as a “single, central and easily approachable access point for the community” but exist in at least three models. There are broad teams integrated by both generalist and specialist professionals, teams for a specific target group and generalist teams.
The involvement of different services and professionals is determined by the needs of people in the community. Whilst district nurses are involved in an overwhelming share of SCTs, public social services are incorporated in somewhat more than half of all SCTs. Professionals from housing and justice are only involved in small minority of SCTs.

Improving the focus and management of Social Community Teams

During the discussions, ESN’s Policy Director Alfonso Lara Montero emphasised that the SCTs cannot be seen as the only way to fight poverty, and are rather an entry point to services for those who may be in need of support. Emphasis was placed on the need to have an integrated approach, which was illustrated through various practice examples from our paper. For instance, the programme ‘Recovery in practice’ in Aarhus (Denmark) incorporates case management as the central form of coordination.

Conclusion

The European Social Network (ESN) acknowledges the multi-dimensional nature of the causes and consequences of poverty. Bringing people into the labour market is one obvious solution against poverty, but should not be seen as the only way forward. Particularly in the case of vulnerable groups, other issues such as homelessness, mental health problems, or skills gaps should be addressed. In this context, local public social services are key in opening doors for users in a person-centred manner and play a vital role here in identifying, supporting, and referring people in need to the right service.

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