Eurodiaconia has published a position paper “COVID-19 & Social Services: Learnings and recommendations for the future” where we present our assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the provision of social and care services and present key lessons for the future.
Quality, affordable, and accessible social services are crucial for social inclusion and cohesion in Europe. Despite their crucial role in our societies, they have been experiencing persistent underfunding, under investment and undervaluing during more than a decade of austerity. On top of that, since the Coronavirus outbreak in early 2020, they have been subjected to severe extra pressure. Already underfunded and struggling with staff shortages, they experienced increased demand and strained to give continuity to their operations while running under extremely complex circumstances.
This position paper builds on the experiences gathered from our members throughout the pandemic. Amongst others, they have reported staffing shortages, staff mental fatigue, work overload and burnout, technological challenges and difficulties to reach out to vulnerable beneficiaries, loss of funding, and increased costs. Departing from there, we have identified lessons and key recommendations to influence planning for future crises preparedness.
Our key recommendations:
1.Sustainable Funding for Sustainable Services: We call for a real, long-term social investment approach at the EU level to ensure supportive ecosystems for social services which enable them to be resilient and fulfil their essential role in society. Social Investment should be a priority at the heart of the recovery and policies such as the European Semester, EU Funds (ERDF, ESF+) and financial instruments including the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
2.Quality, Affordable, and Accessible Social Services for All: Efforts should be made to retain and train social services staff. Increased salaries, training and retraining, and opportunities for lifelong learning and growth within the sector should be prioritised by social service providers. This can be realised with increased resources made available. Member States should use existing EU funds and programmes to expand the current social and health care workforce through additional permanent and temporary staff to alleviate the physical and mental stress experienced due to COVID-19 and to ensure that social and health care services remain sustainable.
3. Preparedness for Future Crises: Take social services on board!: We call on the European Union to include social services in all the initiatives on future preparedness following the COVID-19 pandemic, with the involvement of representatives of social service provider organisations and organisations that represent the users of services to co-create the European Union future response in the areas of health and social care.