PRESS RELEASE Steering Board for Social Infrastructure: “Make Us Advisory Partners to Boost InvestEU’s Social Impact”

On 4th December, the Steering Board for Social Infrastructure and Mr Alfred Sant MEP co-organised the European Parliament event “InvestEU & the Economy of Well-being: making the most of local know-how”. With over 100 participants, the Steering Board for Social Infrastructure engaged with EU policy makers and investors on concrete steps to ensure that InvestEU brings genuine solutions to high-quality and innovative social, health, education, and housing projects. The major recommendation was to ensure that the Steering Board becomes a formal Advisory Partner to help InvestEU reach its social impact potential in local communities across Europe   The European Union has been increasingly active in trying to boost private investment in Europe, including in the social sectors. The European Commission has recently proposed a new InvestEU program, currently under negotiation, which builds on previous EU initiatives and aims to improve access to finance (typically, loans) for social projects with a dedicated window for “Social investment and skills”. The Steering Board for Social Infrastructure (SBSI) was created in 2017, in part to provide a cross-sectoral and representative partner for the European institutions to improve the impact of EU Investment initiatives in the social, health, education, housing and ageing sectors. SBSI brings together major representatives of the social services, health, education, social and affordable housing and ageing sectors at European level. Together, these sectors enable all persons in Europe to access their human and social rights, to live healthier, to be empowered and to live in dignity. They also enable the economy to function better, fairer and more sustainably, as highlighted by the Council Conclusions on the Economy of Wellbeing. All of these fields of activity have funding gaps and lack investment. Whilst addressing the public funding gap must continue to be the N°1 priority for the European Union, the proposed InvestEU programme can be an opportunity to boost access to finance for social infrastructure development. Opening the event, Mr Alfred Sant, Member of the European Parliament highlighted the “need for local projects to not fall outside of the loop of InvestEU. Although small in EU terms, these are often crucial in the social & economic development of communities”. Ms Kerstin Jorna, Deputy Director General at DG Economic and Financial Affairs, European Commission, welcomed the event “as key to developing the products we need for the future”, whilst remarking “the Economy that Works for People is more than a mantra, it is part of objectives of the EU treaty”. Ms Ivankovic Knezevic, Director at DG Employment and Social Affairs, European Commission, outlined how “we need to better link InvestEU with other programs such as the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund +”. Mr Luk Zelderloo, Secretary General of the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities and SBSI member, confirmed “the potential of InvestEU for social impact”; yet highlighted “the risk is that InvestEU fails to reach the most impactful social projects, which are often bottom-up, community-based and require more targeted technical expertise. Luckily for the European Commission and Investors, they have a ready-made solution: the Steering Board for Social Infrastructure and our ability to understand and engage with our local membership. We must become advisory partners to bridge the gap!” The event also allowed the SBSI to present their Joint Position “InvestEU and the Economy of Wellbeing: making the most of local know-how”, which includes 5 targeted recommendations on how to maximise the social impact of InvestEU. The event marked the first step towards more formal cooperation between the EU institutions, the Investors and the social sectors targeted by InvestEU.   For more information, contact Thomas Bignal: 

Creation of the Steering Board for Social Infrastructure

The main representatives of the social services, health, education, social housing and ageing sectors at European level have joined forces to help unlock investment into local innovative social infrastructure projects which would help to further improve the quality of service provision across the continent. This newly created Steering Board for Social Infrastructure brings together EASPD Housing Europe Eurohealthnet Lifelong Learning Platform FEANTSA AGE Platform The objective is clear: provide the EU institutions with a single point of contact with the different social sectors across Europe in order to develop policies which target the needs of the sectors involved and to build up the capacity of the different stakeholders involved. Helping ot build-up a pipeline of investment projects is also an important priority. In October 2018, the Steering Board for Social Infrastructure organised a launch event to present the new coalition, raise awareness about some of the bottlenecks to finance and pave the way for further investment. The Conference was also the opportunity to present the Steering Board's position paper on InvestEU, which was also followed up by a Scoping Note indicating where are the biggest investment needs for social infrastructure projects. The Steering Board is continuing its activities in 2019 to make sure the social sector's needs are known, respected and well-understood by all stakeholders involved.    

EASPD: Time for the EU Investment Plan to do more for social services

EASPD organised in the European Parliament (EP) the seminar "Implementation of the European Fund for Strategic Investment: unlocking investment for social services" [8-09-2016]. During the Seminar participants discussed how to ensure that EFSI can contribute significantly to social inclusion in Europe, in particular through investment in high-quality social services.         The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) aims to mobilise over EUR 300 billion of private investment in the real economy in the next few years. After one year implementation, the EIB claims that social infrastructure accounts for 4% of EFSI expenditure. According to research made by EASPD, this percentage primarily includes investment into hospitals and social housing projects, with little evidence of sufficient investment into social services.   Mr Luk Zelderloo, EASPD Secretary General, stressed that “the social sector is in need of substantial investment due to the rising demand for quality care and support services throughout Europe”. “Most service providers find it difficult to get access to private funding, loans and bank guarantees”, he added.   Ms Romana Tomc, host and member of the European Parliament, highlighted that “the main aim of EFSI should be to create growth, a dynamic labour market and well-being for EU citizens. There is a lot of demand for investment in social services. There is also money available with the banks. We now need to find ways of bringing them together”. She then called on EFSI to be a relevant tool to do so.   Mr Thomas Bignal, EASPD Policy Officer, stressed the need to “modernise social services by investing not only in the development of community-based infrastructure but also in the training of staff”. He presented three recommendations that have arisen from the EASPD study “Unlocking the EFSI for social services” to help unlock EFSI investment into social services: (1) better targeting instruments to sector’s needs and capacity; (2) creating national/regional platforms to bring relevant stakeholders together and (3) the further inclusion of social services experts in EFSI procedures to better assess the quality of projects.   In addition, speakers stressed the importance to build coalitions and networks between small and large social service providers to attract private investors. The representative from the banking sector pointed out that building on the capacity of service providers to understand and work with private financing is necessary if investment is to be unlocked.   During the second panel, participants addressed the issue of monitoring and assessing the use of the fund and effectiveness of the mechanism. In that sense, Mr Georgi Pirinski, Member of the European Parliament, stressed that “there is a clear and urgent need first to introduce strict public accountability for the operations of EFSI in general and regarding the social services sector in particular. This is imperative given the severe needs for such investment and the fact that in this case EFSI is operating with resources provided by the EU budget”.   All these messages come at an important time, only one week before Jean-Claude Juncker’s state of the union speech in front of the European Parliament [14 Sep] as President of the European Commission; as well as at the beginning of talks to extent EFSI beyond 2018.   Related documents EASPD Study: Unlocking the EFSI for Social Services EASPD State of Play Briefing on EFSI and Social Services in English / in French Photo gallery of the seminar Video gallery and Presentations. Download the press release in pdf format   Note to editors The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit European umbrella organization, established in 1996, and currently representing over 12,000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the UN CRPD principles, which could bring benefits not only to persons with disabilities, but to society as a whole.   Contact Thomas Bignal, EASPD Policy Officer Rachel Vaughan, EASPD Communications Officer