European court of justice

Judgement Altmark 24.07.2003

Judgment Almelo 27.04.1994

Judgment Corbeau 19.05.1993


Social Services of General Interest in Europe. How to assess Quality

Some recent evolutions put extra pressure on Social Services of General Interest: not only did the current economic crises created financial constraints, but demographic and societal changes – due to an evolution of family structures – significantly altered the environment in which they operate. At the same time, we saw an evolution (e.g. part-time jobs, low salary jobs, migrant workers), and in the labour market (e.g. fast staff turnover, temporary shortages of workforce, increasing gap between high skilled and under-qualified workers).

These new challenges imply that SSIG need to adapt this changed reality, but only while maintaining quality. This dimension is sometimes omitted. There was for example a net creation of jobs in SSGI, but without any guarantee as far as quality of these jobs goes. For the service users as well, quality became more important: they rightly became more demanding, and require personalisation of the services.

The European Employment Strategy and Active Inclusion strategies both build on the recognition of the need of high quality jobs. A.I. strategy in particular has integrated approach based on 3 pillars: adequate income support, active labour market strategies and access to quality social services (biennial report, 2008, p.46).

New management tools were introduced in the design, evaluation and monitoring of the service delivery. But it also left public authorities confronted with the challenge of maintaining a high quality of SSGI. Different initiatives were thus launched by the Commission after the publication of the EC Communication on services of general interest (COM (2007) 725 final nov. 2007), in order to develop a EU Strategy for the promotion of SSGI quality. These included:

– the launch of projects on the definition of quality standards in SSGI provision (VP/2008/004).
– a SPC i,itiative on the development of a EU voluntary quality framework providing guidelines on methods to set, evaluate and monitor SSGI (work program 2009 SPC); and
– training for local authorities

In the present document, we will give an overview of the situation as far as quality of SSGI goes, present recent initiatives by the involved stakeholders, and define the European Voluntary Quality Framework on SSGI.

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