Shaping a sustainable future

The final roundtable debate of the European Social Services Conference in Copenhagen reflected upon the key messages for the future of sustainable social services in Europe, which emerged from the conference.

Ole Pass, the President of the National Association of Social Directors in Denmark (FSD), repeated the Irish Minister, Frances Fitzgerald’s message that in the current economic climate “business as usual is not an option. As social directors we need to create organisations that are innovative, (…) we need to change our old habits and find new partners and alliances within the community”.

Yvan Ferrier, the President of ANDASS in France, said that social services need fresh answers which are based on the evolving needs of the society. He argued that public authorities have a big role to play here: “We can’t say that everything we’ve done is no longer valid. Certainly we need to make better use of the available resources, but without abandoning the pact that binds us all.”

Talking about the evolution of social services in the Baltic countries, the Deputy Mayor for the City of Tartu in Estonia, Jüri Kōre said that “twenty years on from independence, we have been moving from one (economic) crisis to another (…) and our welfare model is not complete. Therefore, we look around us to learn.”

Monica De Connick, the Minister for Employment in Belgium, argued that a good economic policy needs a successful social policy: “We need to try to focus on the positive and need to communicate with participants and stakeholders about why change is important and what our objectives are.” She also emphasised that we need to balance resources and solidarity just as we need to balance rights and responsibilities.

Egbert Holthius, Head of Unit for the Social Protection Committee at European Commission for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, called on different levels of governance to work together: “We need to avoid a paradox where problems are local, financing is both local and national and the legal and financial infrastructure is prepared at the European level”.

Chairing the session, Hugh Frazer, Adjunct Professor of Applied Social Studies, National University of Ireland Maynooth, concluded with a message for conference participants, arguing that it was important “to learn from each other’s experiences of good practice as we can be better in the future. That is what a network like ESN can do”.