Youth and employment have been our main themes this week at Eurodiaconia. On Monday and Tuesday we held a packed seminar on youth and social enterprise, looking at if and how participating in social enterprises or indeed setting up social enterprises can assist young people into sustainable and rewarding employment. Some great examples of social enterprises were presented by our members which demonstrated both inclusion and innovation and there was lots of inspiration for those who are developing such activities.  However, our members also pointed out that setting up social enterprises require specific skills and support – just as in setting up any business or organisation needs.

How do young people get such support and how do we ensure such social enterprises are sustainable in the long term? These are some questions where we will be looking for answers with our partners in the European Commission. One of the current initiatives at European level to support young people is the launch of the European Solidarity Corps.  Promoted by President Juncker, the aim is to develop a cadre of young people who engage in solidarity actions across the EU either as employees, trainees or as volunteers.  A number of consultations were held on the proposal this week and we attended. Whereas we could see the value of trans-national volunteering – and already there are many young people engaged in transnational volunteering in our member organisations – employment is perhaps more complex. Can a young social worker from Germany work in the Czech Republic? Will their qualifications be recognised? Will they have the necessary language skills to work with clients? What is the added value of the European Union getting involved in transnational recruitment in the social care sector? Again, more questions we are pursuing!

The search for answers to how to ensure more opportunities for disadvantaged young people is part of a bigger question about the social dimension of the European Union.  This week saw the launch of the Autumn Package of economic governance guidance including the 2017 Annual Growth Survey (AGS). The AGS gives the policy guidance to member states on their budget discussions for the coming year and forms the basis of the European Semester. Each year we hope to see a balance between economic and social policies and at least to see economic policies that encourage social inclusion and cohesion. This years’ AGS gives a hint that there is a move towards great balancing between social and economic actions. However, we are concerned that there seems to be an underlying theme that social development is seen purely as a lever for growth rather than an aim in itself.

So there is still work to do, but as ever, what we heard this week from our members shows that there is solidarity and social development in Europe. There is innovation for inclusion and there is a commitment that everyone should be able to be included in society regardless of their experience, position or limits. We might not have been able to answer all the questions that came up this week but we have been inspired to continue our work to find those answers together.

Have a good weekend,