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The European Commission has called on Member States to prioritise social investment and to modernise their welfare states. This means better performing active inclusion strategies and a more efficient and more effective use of social budgets. The call features in a Communication on Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion just adopted by the Commission.
The Communication also offers guidance to Member States on how best to use EU financial support, notably from the European Social Fund, to implement the outlined objectives. The Commission will closely monitor the performance of individual Member States’ social protection systems through the European Semester and formulate, where necessary, Country Specific Recommendations.
“Social investment is key if we want to emerge from the crisis stronger, more cohesive and more competitive. Within existing budget constraints, Member States need to shift their focus to investment in human capital and social cohesion. This can make a real difference if we want to make real progress towards the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. Social Investment today helps to prevent Member States having to pay much higher financial and social bills tomorrow” declared László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Social Inclusion.
The social consequences of the current financial crisis are very serious. The Social Investment Package, just presented by the Commission, gives guidance to Member States on more efficient and effective social policies in response to the significant challenges they currently face. These include high levels of financial distress, increasing poverty and social exclusion, as well as record unemployment, especially among young people. These are combined with the challenge of ageing societies and smaller working age populations, which test the sustainability and adequacy of national social systems.
The Social Investment Package includes a Commission Recommendation against child poverty, calling for an integrated approach to child-friendly social investment. Investing in children and young people is especially effective in breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty and social exclusion and improving people’s opportunities later in life.
The Social Investment Package is an integrated policy framework which takes account of the social, economic and budgetary divergences between Member States. It focusses on:
- Ensuring that social protection systems respond to people’s needs at critical moments throughout their lives. More needs to be done to reduce the risk of social breakdown and so avoid higher social spending in the future.
- Simplified and better targeted social policies, to provide adequate and sustainable social protection systems. Some countries have better social outcomes than others despite having similar or lower budgets, demonstrating that there is room for more efficient social policy spending.
- Upgrading active inclusion strategies in the Member States. Affordable quality childcare and education, prevention of early school leaving, training and job-search assistance, housing support and accessible health care are all policy areas with a strong social investment dimension.
For EuroHealthNet, it is now time for a clearer EU strategy supporting effective, integrated, equitable and universal health and social systems.
Equitable health outcomes are crucial to tackle poverty, increase inclusion of people across the social gradient and meet EU goals of cohesion, wellbeing, economic sustainability and social progress. In some states mentioned in the documents, cuts in social spending in the context of budget consolidation programmes are impacting strongly on the availability of social and health support services, particularly to those in need. Those cuts coincide with a greater demand for social services at a time when 24% of the EU population are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
‘’The Commission’s new call to invest in sustainable health systems, to consider health as an asset rather than a burden, and to reduce health inequalities is therefore welcome” said Clive Needle, EuroHealthNet Director. ‘’But this will now need serious engagement from and with all responsible bodies and stakeholders across Europe. When the numbers of young unemployed people are soaring, that is a health emergency as much as an economic crisis. Professionals in health systems need to be involved as much as social sectors, and need to ensure quality, equity and effectiveness of all that is done. That means preventing illness and promoting wellbeing for all.’’
The European Commission Social Investment Package is available here
The European Commission document “Investing in Health” is available here
To access the European Commission Press Release, click here
EuroHealthnet position is available here
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