The future of Social Services for people with disabilities was the central theme of the European Platform for Rehabilitation’s Conference on 20-21 September 2018 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

As Chief Executive of the European Social Network (ESN) I spoke at the conference to highlight the importance of a continuum between legislation, policy, and practice to promote the social inclusion of people with disabilities.

The legislative and policy framework at international level

Promoting the social inclusion of people with disabilities is a key responsibility for many of our members whose work is underpinned by policy and legislation.  

At European level legislation is in place to combat discrimination against people with disabilities, and policy instruments for defining strategies for their social inclusion. Their rights are also enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Implementation through local practice

Social services have developed a range of innovative practices to implement legislative and policy frameworks in local communities.

In Spain the Alborada network coordinates the work of different professionals to provide early intervention for children with disabilities.

In the Netherlands the Locus Netwerk is a series of partnerships between employers, municipalities, and social services to improve access to mainstream job opportunities for people with disabilities.

In France Mutual Support Groups allow people with disabilities to share their experiences, increasing their confidence and empowering them.

You can read more in our 2018 publication: ‘Towards more independent lives for people with disabilities: Reflections from social services across Europe’.

Making the connection

These practices are developed under the remit of policies and legislation such as the UNCRPD and are crucial for making them a reality. However the frameworks are not well known locally, with stronger links required so that the principles trickle down from European and national level to the local level.  

In this sense it is imperative that policy-makers are connected to the work of social services – a connection we enable through our activities. Moving forward, the continuum of legislation, policy, and practice is key for the social inclusion of people with disabilities.

One such activity coming up in November is our Inclusive Activation seminar in Vienna, where we will discuss how social services can help people with disabilities to access the labour market. Register to join the discussions.

ESN Resources

External Resources