On the 8th of October, EUD took part in a webinar titled ‘Empowering services’ as part of the 18th European Week of Regions and Cities. The European Week of Regions and Cities is an annual four-day event during which cities and regions of the EU showcase their capacity for good European governance. This webinar was organised by the DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission (EC).
The webinar tackled the importance of accessing good quality services as a key element for economic and social inclusion, as well as to maintain cohesive societies. In light of this, the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) plays a key role in enabling access to good quality services. The principle 17 of the EPSR calls for the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Maria Nyman, President of Social Services Europe, emphasised that the COVID-19 pandemic has already increased existing challenges in the access to essential services, due to containment measures in place. Isabel Baptista, from the European Social Policy Network (ESPN), explained in detail Principle 20 of the EPSR on access to essential services. She particularly underlined the empowering role of accessing information, as lack of information about existing access to goods and services does not prove efficient for socioeconomic policies to have their expected impact.
Agnes Berlakovich from the City Council of Vienna gave an overview of the ‘Vienna Basic Benefit’ to implement Principle 14 of the EPSR on minimum income. She explained that the Vienna Basic Benefit provides financial aid, health insurance, advice and support from social workers to persons with no or very low income.
Access to essential goods and services is key for deaf persons, and more efforts are needed to provide information in national sign languages also at the regional and local levels. Often, income support schemes are put in place to combat poverty and social exclusion, however this is not done in an accessible way such as providing information in national sign languages. As a result, deaf persons might be at a higher risk of not accessing social entitlements. EUD will continue to emphasise that policy initiatives that aim at implementing the EPSR need to always consider Principle 17 on the inclusion of persons with disabilities as a horizontal requirement, so that when implementing the other Principles of the Pillar, no one is left behind.
EUD would like to thank the European Commission for the organisation of the 18th European Week of the Regions.