European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities: Europe needs a Social Infrastructure Agenda, say social services AND investors
The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) launched earlier this week its latest report “Investing in Social Care and Support, a European Imperative” in a Conference organised with the European Policy Centre. The message was clear: the European Union must develop a European Strategy for Quality Social Infrastructure. The Strategy would include a fund dedicated to the needs of the social sectors, strengthen the capacity of social service providers and investors to build a pipeline of quality projects and support the exchange of quality social infrastructure investment standards.
On Monday, 27th November, EASPD and EPC organised a High Level Conference on “the EU Investment Plan: investing in social care and support”, bringing together investors, social services, public authorities and policy-makers. The Conference aimed to address the current underinvestment into social care and support infrastructure throughout the European Union.
Opening the Conference, Herman Van Rompuy, President Emeritus of the European Council and President of EPC, stated that “Europe is poorly prepared to face the investment gap in social care and support” and called for “collective solutions to be developed”.
In response, Jim Crowe, President of EASPD, called for the “creation of a European Strategy for Quality Social Infrastructure”, arguing that “quality and smart social services are both crucial to implementing at least 10 of the 20 principles in the European Pillar of Social Rights and to the creation of millions of new jobs in the coming decades”. Luk Zelderloo, Secretary General EASPD, presented the new report “Investing in Social Care and Support, a European Imperative” and suggested three priority actions to be included in the European Strategy:
- A Fund suited to the needs and specificities of the social sector.
- The development of local social investment platforms to develop a pipeline of viable investment projects; by helping to bundle smaller projects and blend ressources, including structural funds.
- A permanent European High Level Taskforce for Quality Social Infrastructure; to provide guidance, support and technical advice to the local platforms and to the European institutions.
- European social investment data collection body; to better track and assess the trends and needs in terms of human capital development, the provision of quality care and support services and the funding of the sector.
Leaders of the social services sector from six EU member states (Finland, Ireland, France, Austria, Belgium, Spain) highlighted the negative impact of austerity on their activities and the crucial need for additional public investment into the sector in order to better prepare for the disruptive transformations to Europe: demographic challenges, growing inequalities, high unemployment and the digital revolution. They also highlighted the challenges they face in accessing private investment; yet also agreed on the positive impact improved access to decent loans could have in achieving their objectives; for instance, in better rolling out digital platforms, supporting the de-institutionalisation process or the improved training of staff.
The Conference also included the opportunity to present the work of the High-Level Taskforce on Social Infrastructure, chaired by Romano Prodi, and its report on “Boosting investments in social infrastructure in Europe”, authored by Lieve Fransen, Gino Bel Bufalo and Edoardo Reviglio. EASPD is an active member of the High-Level Taskforce. Helmut von Glasenapp, Secretary General of the European LongTerm Investors association, presented the report, called for the launch of a “European Social Infrastructure Agenda to help fill the current investment gap estimated at 100-150 billion per year in the European Union.
As an active member of the High-level Taskforce, EASPD welcomes the recommendations made in the report. EASPD will continue to actively promote a European Strategy for Quality Social Infrastructure at European level with interested partners, as well as at local level with national events in at least 10 EU Member States. The European Policy Centre will soon publish a Conference report. For more information, please continue to monitor our dedicated website: www.socialinvestment.eu.