Just a few months ahead of the European elections, we are uncertain on the path Europe will choose. At the European Social Network (ESN) we hope that the route it takes will place the European social agenda in the spotlight and will make it the cornerstone of economic growth and development.

As the independent network for public social services in Europe, we are the platform for high quality social services policy and practice. In 2019, our contribution to the European debate will focus on the role of community care in the implementation of key European social policy principles, such as empowerment, inclusion, participation and engagement.

Changing perspectives from quality of care to quality of life

Community care has as its main goal the improvement of people’s quality of life, that’s to say their global well-being, including all emotional, social, and physical aspects of the individual’s life. In the traditional sense of care provided in residential facilities, quality is often understood as complying with the parameters set by the regulator, such as a ratio of staff per resident or the size of a room per person(s).

By contrast, new ways of understanding quality in community care, as we shall see at our 2019 European Social Services Conference, focus on the individual with their needs and assets as well as their strengths and wishes. This makes community-based services more likely to see an individual as a whole person with emotional, social and physical needs.

Care standards are no longer just focused on regulated care settings, but for use in all social care, including health and social care in the community, early childcare and child protection services, personal and home services. At our annual conference, professionals from across Europe and beyond will assess positive practice in quality care based on people’s empowerment and engagement.

Exploring co-production, integration and digitalisation with our members

Community care that meaningfully engages people using services will be further studied at our annual seminar taking place in October. This will extend beyond services co-production between public authorities and third sector providers, to also include people’s participation in the design, implementation and evaluation of social services.

Community care aims to keep people in their local communities. For this to happen, services in the community need to be coordinated and interconnected to meet people’s basic and complex needs. This is the driver of our working group on integrated care and support, which will continue its work with a focus on coordinated strategies for young people leaving care.

We are also aware that digitalisation can improve the efficiency of care coordination. This is particularly relevant for agencies responsible for providing an integrated set of services, such as licensing, organising and sharing data or case management. This will be the initial focus of our working group on social services digitalisation to be launched later on in the year.

Informing international policy agendas

The implementation of the principles of empowerment, community care, quality, and wellbeing will also form the basis of our policy work on international frameworks such as the European Semester and the Sustainable Development Agenda through two of our working groups. 

I am sure that the activities delivered by ESN in 2019 will enable those who plan and manage social services to gain the knowledge and develop the skills they need to deliver quality care and support. We look forward to working with members and partners to open a new and exciting year of learning and development to help achieve our vision of social justice and inclusion as well as effective and sustainable social services in Europe.

Let the journey begin!