Our work in 2017 to promote investment in services, the social economy and social enterprises

At the beginning of a new year, we are always busy planning the activities for the year to come.

In 2017 I will continue my work to promote investment in health, housing, social, employment and education services, together with members and other allies. Despite the social and employment situation deteriorating in many Member States, there is still a long way to go to convince decision-makers that investing in these areas is worthwhile.

In the EU the financial crisis has become a crisis of public spending. We often hear that in times of economic crisis such budget cuts cannot be helped, resulting in organisations offering services to people in need not being able to meet the demands of the entire population. Furthermore, cuts to these services make it difficult – and sometimes impossible – to put in place preventative measures and to prepare for the population’s future needs. Short-term savings by cutting public spending on essential services will translate to increased costs in the long-run.

The need to promote investment is very high on the European agenda, but it mainly focuses on infrastructure, energy and transport. So far there has been little scope for the promotion of social investment. The cost of non-investment in people will be significant in the long-term, not only from a social perspective, but in economic terms too.

Investing in services is not just about the amount of money that is invested; it is first and foremost about the approach taken in service design and delivery. Services should be tailored to the individual’s needs and promote users’ fundamental rights and empowerment.

Therefore we will continue to develop and promote our recommendations on how to ensure sustainable funding for services by the means of national public budgets, EU funding tools such as the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), as well as private investments. We will also advocate making sure that ESIF, EFSI and the European Semester’s country-specific recommendations are utilised to create a shift in service policies towards social investment, personalised approaches, increased quality, accessibility and non-discriminatory access, and empowerment of users.

We will aim to ensure that these principles are integrated in the new regulations of the revision of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework and future EU Programmes, such as ESIF and EFSI. We will also collect and promote examples of successful EU-funded projects that have put in place non-discriminatory practices in access to services.

Another strand of work this year will be the promotion of the social economy and social enterprises as a model of conducting business in a way that has a positive impact on people and the environment as well as the economy. We will look at the financial, political and regulatory needs of the social economy and social enterprises. We will build on the work of the European Commission Group of Experts on Social Entrepreneurship – of which I am a member – on the 2015 European Council conclusions on the social economy and the Bratislava Declaration, as well as on the extensive work of the European Economic and Social Committee. One key area will be the identification of good examples of collaboration between the social economy and social enterprises with businesses, public authorities, financial institutions, schools and universities, and civil society organisations at large. These examples will then be presented and debated in a high level conference we will organise towards the end of the year.