The objective of the report is to analyse how social services provide integrated support with other public services. Based on a literature and practice review and our members’ input at our integrated services seminar, the report assesses key barriers and facilitators for those working on integration and develops recommendations for policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers.

Integrated services was a key cross-cutting area of the European Social Network’s (ESN) work for 2015. In cooperation with Vilans, the Centre of expertise for long-term care in the Netherlands, we undertook a joint literature and practice review to assess how social services provide integrated support with other public services in education, health and employment. Also, ESN organised a seminar on integrated services in Manchester in November 2015 with the aim to gather feedback on the report’s findings. Thanks to the analysis of literature and practice across Europe, we have been able to identify and document key elements that enable integrated working in public services, including inter-professional teamwork, a well-functioning delivery system, ICT, funding, innovation and learning and outcomes measurement and sustainability.

Reasons for integrating services

With the term ‘integrated services’ we refer to “a range of activities, implemented to achieve more efficient coordination between services and improved outcomes for service users.” Emerging from the analysis, there is a variety of reasons for integrating services, which may be guided by policy and professional developments, the need to transform the existing models of care to achieve better outcomes for people, decentralisation and community-based approaches, as well as financial constraints.

Integrated services’ implementation

Different approaches to integrated services may cover case management, one-stop shops and various forms of partnership arrangements. Case management is often based upon a single contact person, who assesses, plans and coordinates service delivery with and for an individual; one-stop shops provide services through a single point of access, whereas different partnership arrangements may include different forms of collaboration between two or more organisations or multi-professional teams.

The evidence identified in the report shows that integration is certainly about making organisational, governance, budgetary or structural changes but most importantly it is about the individual, who needs are placed at the centre of their support. As such, the report makes specific recommendations for policy-makers around the development of one-stop shops, shared financing and users involvement; joint training and specific leadership arrangements for cross-sectoral cooperation amongst professionals; and a focus on participative and applied research as well as the improvement of outcomes measurement frameworks for researchers.

Resources

Read the full report: Integrated social services in Europe. A study looking at how local public services are working together to improve people's lives