Equal access to services and benefits

Education. Health care. Housing. Job-seeking. Everyone in the world will rely on services at some point in their lives.

In the European Union, it is national and local governments who hold ultimate responsibility for the running of essential services, and they are free to decide whether services are run by the central government, a local council, or even a third-party like a charity or private company.

No matter how Member States decide to provide services, EU rules mean that they must respect the principles of quality, accessibility, availability and affordability.

The EU’s efforts to promote investment in services have been articulated by the proposed European Pillar of Social Rights, which the European Commission describes as “a number of key principles and rights to support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems.” Get a brief low-down on the Pillar in our handy explainer.

Financing of services

Spending on essential services that promote the well-being of people is an investment, rather than a cost. It has been proven that countries with quality services are more resilient to economic crises and produce cohesive societies. Quality services put the human rights of their users at the heart of everything they do, even if this means they don’t make a profit. This is why it’s so important that governments allocate enough of their public budgets to fund services. For more information please read our position paper.

Investing in services

Promoting investment in services is not only about the amount of resources needed – it is also about the approach taken in their design and delivery. Services should be people-centred and tailored to meet each individual’s needs. Read more about our work on investing in services here.

Digital services

Technological advancement represents a huge shift in the services sector, especially concerning their accessibility and how they are delivered. While this could open up many doors that lead to higher quality services, there is also the risk that people are excluded from accessing essential services – particularly older people and people with intellectual disabilities. This is why we have broadened our focus on equal access to services and benefits to take into account the digital dimension. Members can find out more by joining our Task Force on digital inclusion.