This mini-conference aimed to promote mutual learning on providing quality services, to discuss success factors and how to address challenges, including a focus on implementing social rights and the “European Pillar of Social Rights”. Workshops gave opportunities to learn about methods to improve the quality of services and participants were encouraged to network during lunch and the evening reception to create lasting connections. Another goal of the conference was to discuss and make recommendations as to how actions at EU level could support quality social services in implementing the principles of the Pillar. It included plenary sessions with national and European experts.
What is the Pillar?
The Pillar was “proclaimed” by all EU member states, the European Parliament and Commission in November 2017 and is considered a significant initiative in the social field at EU level; according to the European Commission, contributing to “Building a more inclusive and fairer European Union”. It contains “principles and rights essential for fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems in 21st century Europe”, and actions should be taken to implement it at national and EU level. Social Services Europe, in which EPR is an active member, developed the position paper ‘The Role of Social Services in the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights’ in 2018. The paper highlights the importance of these services in achieving the principles in the pillar, and in addition stresses “The effectiveness of the principles described in the Pillar is conditional to the provision of quality services”.
We were pleased to welcome speakers from the European Commission and our European partners. The European Disability Forum states that persons with disabilities should be able to enjoy good quality services that will make possible for them, in the long run, to fully exercise their citizenship, their right to dignity and enable them to participate in society; more information here. ESN, the European Network of Public Authorities in social services, runs Awards celebrating quality in care and their 2019 conference focused on quality in social services. Eurodiaconia has been actively engaged in the EU debate on the quality of social services since 2005, wth its own document on quality, and more recently working on the Q-Europe project for long-term care managers on rights-based service provision.
Our afternoon workshops were led by Dr Amets Suess Schwend, Rights and Mental Health Specialist, Andalusian School of Public Health and Michael Crowley, Business Management and Quality Expert with contributions from partners.
EPR and quality
The topic of quality of services in the social sector has been a priority for EPR and its members for many years, and in 2003 EPR launched EQUASS, which enhances the social sector by engaging social service providers in continuous improvement, learning and development, in order to guarantee service users quality of services throughout Europe. Its quality framework provides a comprehensive approach to quality management, features a rights-based approach and is a recognised tool for implementing the European Voluntary Quality Framework for Social Services.