European Social Network: How can social services promote solidarity between the generations?

ESN_LOGOThe European Social Network brings together people who plan, manage and deliver public social services, together with those in regulatory and research organisations. ESN seeks to improve the quality of social services policy and practice through knowledge exchange and learning on a range of thematic and strategic management issues.

ESN members, local authorities, play an essential role in implementing the Social Investment approach promoted by the European Commission. Social services support people at critical junctions in their lives and target specific needs arising in life –from childhood, youth and transitions from school to work into parenthood and to old age. However, the economic crisis has had an impact on local and regional social services. It is likely that public expenditure is not going to increase, especially not with an ageing population.

Within our network of over 100 member organizations across Europe, we have started a practice-based discussion about reshaping services that goes along with a broader debate about the role of public authorities, service users and communities.  Many of our member organisations address the question of public responsibility and intergenerational solidarity at local level. Examples are:

  • The organisation Skills for Care (UK) has developed a ‘skills led approach’ to social care assessment. It is based on the approach that everyone in a local area has skills and knowledge that can be shared and improved in order to support individuals with care and support needs in their communities.
  • The city of Vienna (Austria) has developed the web tool “Voluntarily for Vienna” which matches the demands of organisations with the available resources of volunteers.
  • At public community forums in Dortmund (Germany) people within a community discuss social issues. These forms of political and local participation create empowerment, joint responsibility and the awareness that local government are not the only guarantors of social stability.

Moreover, public authorities also implement measures that enhance intergenerational cooperation in the social care sector, a sector that is facing workforce shortage:

  • The National Family and Social Policy Institute in Hungary implemented a 50 hours community service for students.  The after school programme involves opportunities in community service including those supporting older people and children and people with disabilities. This encourages students to develop civic responsibility and develops their confidence and future work skills.
  • The London Borough Redbridge has developed an apprenticeship scheme to attract younger people into the social care workforce and to ensure that future service delivery is tailored to the needs of a younger service user group. The apprenticeship has led to a 16% increase of staff aged 20-24 within three years.

More practice examples can be found here or for more information please contact Lisa Schönenberg, Policy Officer at ESN, at

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