On 15-16th February in Sofia, the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU hosted the European conference “Investing in people – the way forward” dedicated to discussions on the strategic orientation of human development funding in Europe. COFACE Families Europe discussed the place of investing in people through specific funding on social inclusion and work-life balance in the future EU budget.
The latest Eurofound survey on Quality of Life in Europe shows that work-life balance has deteriorated in the last ten years (between 2007 and 2016), for all age groups. COFACE has been advocating for years now to push work-life balance top of the EU agenda, calling for access to resources, services and time, to provide a decent safety net and ensure a decent quality of life for families. We therefore endorsed the EU work-life balance package of measures proposed by the European Commission, as the first package of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Join the #Iwantworklifebalance campaign online!
Besides that, we have been actively participating in discussions on the future EU budget, mostly concentrating on:
1. Coherence between funding priorities and key policy priorities, namely linking the future EU budget to the European Pillar social rights, to the global Sustainable Development Goals. These are two key global and European policy frameworks which include goals on work-life balance and gender equality, which go hand in hand. Work-life balance is not just for young mothers, it is for ALL, women and men and throughout the lifecycle for working parents and working carers.
2. Strengthening alignment/cooperation between funds, for instance the European Social Fund (ESF) and the EU fund for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), through a common framework. These are very different funds, but complementary. While the ESF targets change at local level, EaSI drives change and innovation through transnational dynamics, it is more about creating bridges between countries, and between the local and European level. COFACE strives to make that funding link on work-life balance, but that could be made easier and effective by an overarching framework linking both funds.
3. Emphasising the need for consolidating EU cohesion policy and the post-2020 European Structural and Investment funds, and when referring to work-life balance that means a continuation of current investment priorities on supporting more women into employment, piloting flexible work arrangements, investing in childcare and community-based support services for families. Both boosting professional development and the workforce through the ESF, while using the ERDF to develop service infrastructure. While there may be possibilities for blending with the European Fund for Strategic Investment, there needs to be clear ESIF ring-fencing of grants and subsidies for all the rights-based services which support families and generate societal changes not revenue.
4. Supporting the use of ex-ante conditionalities which we believe are essential to ensure the funds are spent in line with human rights and EU values outlined in the Treaty and the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights, e.g. the shift from institutional to community-based settings is essential for COFACE. Families are users of such settings, their family members are users. But this ex-ante conditionality must be implemented correctly supporting transformation at all levels (policy, service provision, funding models, legislation) and monitored correctly both at the regulatory and programming level. Shifting away from institutional to community-based care and support is essential to support the social inclusion of people with support needs and their families. The Commission has shown leadership in this, and we would urge them to continue in this direction.
COFACE Families Europe is founding member of the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care, that has published a position paper on the funding of the EU Post-2020
5. Calling for investments in social policy and social service innovation through the EaSI programme, as is the case with the recent call for social innovation projects on Work-Life Balance (deadline 18th April). European networks like COFACE are also EaSI-funded, to make links between local and EU level, to serve as society watchdogs, to monitor the impact of EU legislation and much more. Social innovation is essential to make Europe futureproof – it allows for continuous testing, reviewing, adapting policies/services to emerging needs, and can help prepare governments to tackle current/future challenges. The EU added value of such investments in transformative actions of Member States is clear.
More about the conference here
Watch also this video with an interview of our colleague Magdi Birtha:
More information about the #EUBudget, click here