The activities of SAMARITAN INTERNATIONAL in the area of social services are as diverse as the European Samaritan organisations. Our focus is on the development and expansion of high-quality and innovative social services in the areas of
- Assistance and care for the elderly
- Aid for children and youth work
- Assistance for people with disabilities
- Support for victims of violence
- Support for disadvantaged groups including migrants
- Support for labour market integration
A special concern of SAM.I.’s members is the inclusion of people who are disadvantaged because of age, challenging life situations, or other specific support needs. The offered services concentrate on the creation of socio-political conditions which enable self-determined and independent social participation of citizens, as far as possible.
All SAM.I. members are active in the provision of social services. As the network is geographically diverse, members offer their services under different social systems. However, the long-standing exchange within SAM.I. has shown that the main challenges are often shared.
SAMARITAN INTERNATIONAL follows and engages in relevant sectoral EU policies and strategies, in the area of long-term care, persons with disabilities, childcare, migration and other disadvantaged groups, with the aim to ensure the future of high-quality social services in challenging times of shrinking budgets and demographic change.
SAM.I. has concluded an Erasmus+ co-financed project and is planning to further build on the findings to address the issue of the lack of skilled workforce in the sector, which has been identified as a major challenge by the members. As the network is composed of members from EU Member States, as well as Accession and Neighbourhood countries, we are in an ideal position to comprehensively discuss and tackle the existing challenges linked to workforce migration in the social service sector.
Another unique feature of SAMARITAN INTERNATIONAL is that our membership represents the point of intersection between social services and civil protection. Especially as natural disasters increase in frequency and magnitude, it is more and more crucial that vulnerable groups are adequately served during emergencies and temporary shelters. SAM.I. has successfully concluded an Erasmus+ co-financed project, developing a training course for civil protection stakeholders.
The social economy is an umbrella term covering a wide range of private entities that prioritise people, social, and environmental causes over profit and typically comprises cooperatives, mutual benefit societies, associations (including charities), foundations, and social enterprises. While the important role of social economy entities towards a socially just and sustainable transition has been widely acknowledged on European level, the sector’s potential is still far from being fully utilized.
Samaritan International advocates for framework conditions that support non-profit organisations by virtue of their societal and social added-value and that remove excessive burden of proof for the applicability of exceptions, in order to allow these organisations to focus the resources on their services to citizens. In order to provide a favourable framework, it is important to define and recognise public benefit status at European level, facilitating supportive national financial and tax treatment or relief measures.
Social value has to be recognised as a criterion on equal footing with economic considerations when evaluating a service, with a view on sustainable long-term results and high standards for service quality. A clear definition of this social added value has to be established and widely adopted in tendering and other contracting procedures across Europe.
Social non-profit organisations are unique in their ability to offer services with universal regional coverage, in that their mission focuses on “public value” or “social value”, not “shareholder value“.
Particularly in areas that are highly depended on civic engagement of citizens beyond the prescribed catalogue of services, volunteer work has to be considered an essential complementary element for sustainable services, not as potentially harmful for the labour market. Volunteering and its added value are a sensitive civic good in need of public and political support, especially in all areas of public benefit and general public interest.
SAM.I. position on Social Economy: upcoming
European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR)
The European Pillar of Social Rights was proclaimed in 2017 at the Gothenburg Summit by the European institutions. The Pillar sets out 20 key principles as guidance towards a strong social Europe that is fair, inclusive and full of opportunity.
Especially the third chapter of the Pillar on social protection and inclusion directly concerns the many services offered by our network members. It covers Childcare and support to children (principle 11), Inclusion of people with disabilities (principle 17), Long-term care (principle 18), Housing and assistance for the homeless (principle 19), as well as Access to essential services (principle 20), which are all highly relevant for the daily work of our members.
SAMARITAN INTERNATIONAL strongly welcomed the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and all its 20 principles. These principles, together with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, serve as one of the cornerstones guiding our work, especially at the European level. Many of our member organisations are located in EU Member States or Accession or Neighbourhood countries where many of the EPSR principles are not yet a reality. In addition to public services, civil society organisations are playing a critical role in the implementation of the Pillar’s principles and the delivery of the Commission’s Action Plan for the implementation of the EPSR.
Together with other civil society actors and with political allies, we will advocate for the further implementation and sufficient funding to reach the targets, in line with the European Commission’s Action Plan for the implementation of the EPSR, and emphasize the role of civil society service providers to achieve the objectives.
Recovery and Resilience
The EU’s temporary Recovery and Resilience facility has been set up following the COVID-19 pandemic, to enable Member States to recover from the crisis. The instrument offers grants and loans to support reforms and investments in the EU Member States for a total of €723.8 billion. Funds under the Recovery and Resilience funds are being provided to Member States in line with their national Recovery and Resilience plans with the aim to make EU economies greener, digital and more resilient.
While certain percentages of the budget have to be spent on green or digital projects and reforms, the social sector has not been equipped with an obligatory target. SAM.I. strongly believes that in times of crises and budget cuts we need more social not less. Therefore, it is crucial that the Recovery and Resilience Facility delivers not only on Europe’s green and digital future, but equally priorities social investments and a just transition.
Currently only EUR 13.4 billion out of the total EUR 723.8 billion are linked to ‘social protection and inclusion’ across all Member States, despite ‘Social and Territorial Cohesion’ being one of the Facility’s six pillars.
The European Commission’s Recovery and Resilience Scoreboard is a useful tool, to follow-up on reforms and projects across the different political priorities. SAM.I. will keep advocating for a stronger prioritisation of the social dimension to ensure a just transition.