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Procedure : 2009/2222(INI)
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Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - Strasbourg
Social services of general interest

European Parliament resolution of 5 July 2011 on the future of social services of general interest (2009/2222(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on European Union, in particular Articles 2 and 3(3) thereof, and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, in particular Articles 9, 14, 106, 151, 153(1)(j) and (k), 159, 160, 161 and 345 thereof, and Protocol 26 thereto,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular Article 36 thereof,

–  having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was concluded by the European Community on 26 November 2009(1),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on public passenger transport services by rail and road(2),

–  having regard to Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market(3), in particular Article 1(3) thereof,

–  having regard to Decision No 1098/2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2008 on the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (2010)(4),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Implementing the Community Lisbon programme: Social services of general interest in the European Union’ (COM(2006)0177 ) and the accompanying Commission staff working document on social services of general interest in the European Union (SEC(2006)0516),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Services of general interest, including social services of general interest: a new European commitment’ (COM(2007)0725),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working documents entitled ‘Frequently asked questions in relation with Commission Decision of 28 November 2005 on the application of Article 86(2) of the EC Treaty to State aid in the form of public service compensation granted to undertakings entrusted with the operation of services of general economic interest, and of the Community Framework for State aid in the form of public service compensation’ (SEC(2007)1516) and ‘Frequently asked questions concerning the application of public procurement rules to social services of general interest’ (SEC(2007)1514),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document entitled ‘Guide to the application of the European Union rules on state aid, public procurement and the internal market to services of general economic interest, and in particular to social services of general interest’ (SEC(2010)1545),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020) and to its resolution of 16 June 2010 on that communication(5),

–  having regard to the Commission's first ‘Biennial Report on social services of general interest’ (SEC(2008)2179) and its second ‘Biennial Report on social services of general interest’ (SEC(2010)1284)(6),

–  having regard to the Commission Recommendation of 3 October 2008 on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market(7),

–  having regard to the Commission communication on the taxation of the financial sector (COM(2010)0549), as well as the accompanying staff working document (SEC(2010)1166),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Towards a Single Market Act for a highly competitive social market economy’ (COM(2010)0608),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Towards a better functioning Single Market for services – building on the results of the mutual evaluation process of the Services Directive’ (COM(2011)0020) and to the accompanying Commission staff working paper (SEC(2011)0102) on the process of mutual evaluation of the Services Directive,

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Annual Growth Survey: advancing the EU's comprehensive response to the crisis’ (COM(2011)0011),

–  having regard to Commissioner Andor's statement on the social provisions of the Lisbon Treaty(8),

–  having regard to the Monti report of 9 May 2010 on ‘A new strategy for the single market at the service of Europe's economy and society’(9),

–  having regard to the ‘Report on the application of Community rules to SSGI’ prepared by the Social Protection Committee in 2008(10),

–  having regard to the report entitled ‘A voluntary European quality framework for social services’ prepared by the Social Protection Committee in 2010(11),

–  having regard to the ‘Joint report on social protection and social inclusion 2010’ prepared by the Social Protection Committee in 2010(12),

–  having regard to the report entitled ‘Assessment of the social dimension of the Europe 2020 Strategy’, prepared by the Social Protection Committee in 2011(13),

–  having regard to the conclusions and recommendations of the Forums on Social Services of General Interest held in Lisbon in September 2007, Paris in October 2008 and Brussels in October 2010(14),

–  having regard to the conclusions of the EPSCO Council meetings of 16 and 17 December 2008, 8 and 9 June 2009 and 6 and 7 December 2010(15),

–  having regard to the following judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU):

   of 19 April 2007 in Case C-295/05 Tragsa,
   of 18 December 2007 in Case C-532/03 Commission v Ireland (Irish rescue services),
   of 13 November 2008 in Case C-324/07 Coditel Brabant,
   of 9 June 2009 in Case C-480/06 Commission v Germany (Stadtwerke Hamburg),
   of 10 September 2009 in Case C-206/08 Eurawasser,
   of 9 October 2009 in Case C-573/07 Sea s.r.l.,
   of 15 October 2009 in Case C-196/08 Acoset,
   of 15 October 2009 in Case C-275/08 Commission v Germany (Datenzentrale Baden-Württemberg),
   of 25 March 2010 in Case C-451/08 Helmut Müller,
   having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 6 December 2006 on the Commission communication entitled ‘Implementing the Community Lisbon programme: Social services of general interest in the European Union’(16),
   having regard to its resolution of 6 September 2006 on a European Social Model for the future(17),
   having regard to its resolution of 27 September 2006 on the Commission white paper on services of general interest(18),
   having regard to its resolution of 14 March 2007 on social services of general interest in the European Union(19),
   having regard to its resolution of 9 October 2008 on promoting social inclusion and combating poverty, including child poverty, in the EU(20),
   having regard to its resolution of 19 February 2009 on Social Economy(21),
   having regard to its resolution of 6 May 2009 on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market(22),
   having regard to its resolution of 18 May 2010 on new developments in public procurement(23),
   having regard to its declaration of 10 March 2011 on the establishment of European Statutes for mutual societies, associations and foundations(24),
   having regard to the results of the Eurofound Quality of Life Surveys of 2003 and 2007(25),
   having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,
   having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, the Committee on Regional Development and the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (A7-0239/2011),
   A. whereas Article 3 TEU affirms the Member States' objective as the constant improvement of living and working conditions, and the Union's aim as the well-being of its peoples, to be achieved through sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth, a highly competitive social market economy geared to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and aiming at full employment and social progress, protection and improvement of the environment, combating social exclusion, discrimination and inequalities in access to health care, promoting social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child,
   B. whereas Article 9 TFEU requires that, in defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union take into account requirements linked to the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health,
   C. whereas Article 14 of the TFEU and Protocol 26 thereto explicitly address services of general interest (SGI), which include social services of general interest (SSGI); and whereas it is confirmed that national, regional and local authorities have the essential role and wide discretion in providing, commissioning and organising services of general economic interest (SGEI), and that the Treaties do not affect the competence of Member States to provide, commission and organise non-economic services of general interest (SGNEI),
   D. whereas access to services of general interest is a fundamental right included in the economic, social and cultural rights recognised in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,
   E. whereas the provision of universally available, high-quality, accessible and affordable SSGI within the meaning of the 2007 Commission communication on services of general interest can therefore be regarded as an essential pillar of the European social model and as the basis for a good quality of life and for the achievement of EU employment, social and economic objectives,
   F. whereas social services of general interest, and in particular access to services for the care of children, the elderly and other dependants, are essential for the equal participation of women and men in the labour market, education and training,
   G. whereas gender segregation in social services, both sectoral and occupational, has a detrimental impact on working conditions and pay levels and whereas unpaid domestic work, child care and elderly care work are predominantly performed by women,
   H. whereas the expansion of social services of general interest has been a driving force in drawing more women into the labour market,
   I. whereas Articles 4(2) and 5(3) TEU encompass subsidiarity at local level, give formal recognition to regional and local self-government and whereas Article 1 of Protocol 26 to the TFEU recognises the essential role and the wide discretion of national, regional and local authorities in providing, commissioning and organising services of general economic interest tailored as closely as possible to the needs of the users,

Fundamental Rights and Universality

1.  Considers that SSGI, their users and their providers have a number of special characteristics in addition to the common characteristics of SGI; SSGI, as defined by Member States, encompass statutory and complementary social security schemes and universally available services provided directly to the person, aiming to enhance the quality of life of all; play a preventative, social cohesion and inclusion role and deliver on fundamental rights as proclaimed in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

2.  Recognises that, in the case of SSGI, there are two contrasting factors which have to be reconciled: on the one hand, the principle of subsidiarity, which upholds the national public authorities' freedom to define, organise and finance SSGI as they see fit, in conjunction with the principle of proportionality, and, on the other hand, the responsibility incumbent on the Community and the Member States for their respective areas of competence under the Treaty;

3.  Urges the Member States to maintain the availability of accessible, affordable, high-quality social services as during the period of fast economic growth, and to guarantee non-discriminatory access to these services regardless of gender, income, race or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age, sexual orientation or employment conditions; considers that social services are fundamental in ensuring gender equality as, together with health services and childcare facilities, they are one of the mainstays of efforts to increase female employment rates and equality in general;

4.  Insists on the need to prevent the current financial and economic crisis and future economic prospects from putting at risk the development of social services of general interest, as this would in the long term harm the growth of employment, economic growth in the EU, the increase in fiscal contributions and the promotion of equality between women and men;

5.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to conduct a gender-impact assessment of the various social services of general interest and to ensure that the assessment of proposed EU activities from a gender-equality perspective becomes a regular and transparent process with discernible results and that the gender perspective is included in the budget for all EU and national programmes and policies; also calls on the Commission to include in its monitoring reports the issue of gender equality;

6.  Calls on the Member States to ensure the availability, within policies geared to achieving a work-life balance, of accessible, affordable, good-quality, diversified forms of care services for children as described in the Barcelona objectives and to improve the provision of care services for elderly and dependent persons as an essential step towards equality between women and men, since childcare services not only facilitate participation by women in the labour market but also offer job opportunities; requests the Commission and Member States to take action for the recognition of unpaid household, child and elderly care providers, mostly women, who have a very important role for the sustainability of the social systems;

7.  Stresses that the general-interest nature of a social service does not depend on its field but on the way it is provided, in terms of a variety of factors such as non-profit status and non-selection of beneficiaries;

8.  Emphasises that, where SSGI are concerned, the subsidiarity principle must take precedence over internal market rules;

9.  Emphasises that, as a matter of principle, responsibility for decisions on designing, funding and delivering social services of general interest (SSGI) must lie with Member States and local authorities; respects and supports this principle and urges the European institutions also to espouse this position;

10.  Stresses that, in order for SSGI to fulfil their role, access thereto cannot be only for disadvantaged and vulnerable people, but they must be universally accessible and independent of wealth or income, while ensuring equitable access for the most vulnerable people, in accordance with Member State laws and practice;

11.  Stresses that the fundamentally structuring and inclusive character of SSGI contributes in a relevant, useful and effective way to the development of all regions by enabling the State and local or regional authorities to perform a role using public and private funding; considers that preserving them in rural and vulnerable regions is particularly important and stresses as well the vital role of SSGI in limiting risks of segregating fractured and marginalised communities;

12.  Emphasises that SSGI are funded mainly by the Member States, as they fall primarily within their field of competence; considers nevertheless that the European Union can play an important role and assist Member States in their modernisation and adjustment to new conditions, and possibly give voice to citizens' requirements regarding the quality and scope of services;

13.  Stresses the importance of conducting, as a matter of urgency, an assessment of the social consequences and impact on people's lives of liberalisation measures in sectors that are essential to social progress;

14.  Stresses that it is important to reinforce the social dimension of the single market and to take better account of the special nature of SSGI, with emphasis on a pragmatic approach in which the accessibility, universality, fairness, quality and efficiency of such services are the prime considerations;

15.  Endorses the recommendation in the Monti report that broadband internet and basic banking services be recognised in European law, as services which Member States may ensure, are universally available and accessible to all;

Economic contribution

16.  While emphasising that SSGI must not be defined by their economic impact, notes the Commission's second biennial report and confirms that SSGI make a major economic contribution in terms of jobs, economic activity and purchasing power and that the health and social services sector accounts for 5% of economic output and employs 21.4 million people; notes that the CEEP, in its report, ‘Mapping of Public Services,’ also confirmed that health and social activities account for 9.6 % of EU employment, and 9.4 % of GDP; notes that the 2008 Labour Force Survey shows that women account for 79 % of the workforce in health services, 81 % in residential care services and 83 % in non-residential care services; notes also that an SME representative body, UEAPME, takes the view that SMEs need high-quality, efficient SSGI in order to operate successfully; calls on the Member States also to take into account gender-equality principles; notes that the promotion of inclusive labour markets, prevention and rehabilitation will lead to cost savings and improve quality of delivery in the longer term;

17.  Stresses that SSGI help to enable citizens to exercise their rights and are geared to ensuring social, territorial and economic cohesion through the implementation of various forms of solidarity;

18.  Stresses that, regional and local authorities play a fundamental role in defining, financing, providing and attributing SSGI within the framework of Member States' social service and social protection systems: it is estimated that the local and regional government sector is worth 15.9 % of EU-27 GDP, with local government alone accounting for 12.9 %, and its social protection expenditure accounting for 3 % of GDP (EUR 378.1 billion)(26);

19.  Believes that national, regional and local authorities should extend the application of Public-Private Partnerships in the area of SSGI in order to increase their efficiency and availability;

Social contribution

20.  Points out that Eurofound Quality of Life Surveys(27) have verified that one of the most important ways of enhancing citizens' quality of life, ensuring full inclusion in society and providing for social and territorial cohesion is through the provision and development of SGI including SSGI; stresses that SSGI are a key pillar of the European social model, being part of the way European societies are organised, and that their purpose is to achieve social policy objectives, making tangible the social rights of individuals and groups, often through Member State's social security systems;

21.  Highlights the need to promote a policy of social progress, ensuring universal access to high-quality public services, with special consideration for disadvantaged groups, such as single mothers, women, elderly people, children, migrants and those with any kind of disability;

22.  Stresses that it is inappropriate for public funds allocated to SSGI to be used otherwise than to fulfil the objectives of the service, and that no part of such funding, apart from reasonable staff and overhead costs incurred in service delivery, should be used for any other purpose; takes the view that the legitimate objective of profit maximisation conflicts unacceptably with the principles and objectives of SSGI; is of the opinion that where Member State authorities choose to use indirect delivery of SSGI, the general interest must be protected, and that they should, while ensuring quality, innovation, efficiency and cost effectiveness, support social economy enterprises, where any surplus is reinvested in the service and in innovation, and encourage them to operate as providers;

23.  Emphasises the traditional role of the state as provider of social services of general interest, yet considers that opening up this sector to private service providers will enhance the accessibility and quality of services and increase consumer choice;

24.  Reaffirms its commitment to modern, high-quality SSGI, which are a means of giving effect to many of the values embodied in the European project, such as equality, solidarity, the rule of law and respect for human dignity, as well as to the principles of accessibility, universal service, efficiency, economical management of resources, continuity, proximity to service users and transparency;

Regulatory constraints on delivery of SSGI

25.  Stresses that national, regional and local authorities engaged in providing or mandating SSGI need legal certainty for their services and expenditures, and that, while the information and clarification service and the recently published Commission guide are very welcome, they do not deliver the necessary legal certainty, which tends to inhibit SSGI providers in fulfilling their mission;

26.  Stresses that national and local authorities are responsible for ensuring that SSGI operate properly and for maintaining a high standard of quality;

27.  Considers that it is neither efficient nor democratically acceptable that current interpretation of legislation results in the ECJ being asked to adjudicate on the limits of single market rules with regard to SGI, including SSGI, which is a clear indication of the lack of legal certainty; points to the long-standing and ongoing stakeholder dialogue on this matter and calls on the Commission finally to take action;

Economic and budgetary policy

28.  Emphasises that SSGI are an indispensable investment for Europe's economic future, and that they are under severe pressure in some Member States as a result of the economic and banking crises and government austerity programmes, which are resulting in even greater demand for them; SSGI have been indispensable as automatic socio-economic stabilisers during these crises – notably via social security systems;

29.  Stresses that the need for SSGI is steadily growing owing to the current climate of uncertainty over growth and jobs, while demographic change is giving rise to new needs; emphasises that the key challenge of the moment for the delivery of SSGI is maintaining their quality and scope and, given their importance and absolute necessity, that such services need to be enhanced in order to ensure they play their important role in achieving the EU 2020 social and economic targets for employment and poverty reduction;

30.  Points out that the economic and financial crisis and the austerity policies imposed by Member States should not encourage disinvestment in SSGI but that, on the contrary, given their importance and absolutely essential nature, such services need to be consolidated in order to meet people's needs;

31.  Draws attention to the importance of ensuring that the national, regional and local authorities facilitate access to social housing for women in need or at risk of exclusion, and for women who have been the victims of gender violence, in both cases especially when they have dependent children;

32.  Points to the need for greater recognition to be given to the work performed by people employed in the social services sector, the majority of whom are women, because their jobs are difficult, call for a caring attitude and great personal commitment and are not very socially prestigious;

33.  Considers that the principle of solidarity and the strengthening of the European Union require that the crisis, with its growth in unemployment and poverty, must be addressed by greater efficiency and effectiveness of spending at EU and national levels, strengthening of structural funds and, in particular, the European Social Fund, and the application of new resources such as project bonds;

34.  Believes that in order to guarantee delivery of high-quality SSGI, Member State governments need to provide for an adequate financial framework for SSGI, which guarantees continuity of services with stable financing, as well as decent working conditions and training for those employed or assisting in delivering the services;

35.  Stresses, furthermore, that all transfers of competence for SSGI from Member States to local or regional authorities require the introduction of coordination arrangements, in order to avoid any disparities in the quality of the services provided in the various areas, and must go hand in hand with the transfer of the resources required to ensure the continued provision of high-quality universal services that can respond to the rights and needs of users in an effective manner;

36.  Considers that, not least in order to maintain the delivery of quality SSGI, the Member States need new income, and calls on the Commission swiftly to produce a feasibility study based on the European Heads of State decision of 11 March 2011(28);

Deficiencies in the regulatory framework for SSGI

37.  Believes there is a broad European consensus that SSGI are essential to the well-being of our peoples and an efficient economy and that while there has been some progress in addressing the difficulties that arise for providers in the delivery and development of SSGI from the application of EU rules to such services, there is no consensus so far within or between the Commission and the Council on the implementation of further practical measures to overcome the obstacles identified by stakeholders;

38.  Underlines that the Treaties commit the EU and Member States to developing a social market economy and maintaining the European social model; emphasises that it is for Member States and local authorities freely to decide how SSGI are funded and delivered, whether directly or otherwise, using all available options, including alternatives to tendering, so as to ensure that their social objectives are achieved and are not hampered by the application of market rules to non-market services; stresses the need for a supportive environment that promotes quality, accessibility, affordability and efficiency in the delivery of the services, while facilitating the development by providers of a capacity for initiative that can enable them to anticipate public needs;

39.  Emphasises that the quality of services must be based around regular and integrated consultation of users since services must first and foremost meet their needs;

40.  Takes note of its above mentioned declaration of 10 March 2011 on the establishment of European statutes for mutual societies, associations and foundations and the need for greater recognition for social economy actors, including models such as cooperatives, which are active in the provision of SSGI and the organisation and functioning of the social economy, calls on the Commission to take the necessary steps, based on impact assessments at national and EU level, to introduce proposals for European statutes for associations, mutual societies and foundations, which would enable them to operate on a transnational basis;

State aid

41.  Welcomes the review of state Aid which Commissioner Almunia has undertaken and calls for clarification of basic principles on the control of state aid to enhance legal certainty and transparency for clarity of concepts such as ‘act of entrustment’ and ‘public authorities’; for the introduction of differentiation in the rules; for calculating compensation of public service obligations, that should take account of, among other things, social criteria, the specific features of the service provider and a number of external considerations relating to the provision of services, such as social added value and community involvement;

42.  Welcomes the Commission evaluation of the impact of the 2005 Monti-Kroes package; calls for the revision of that package so as to strengthen legal security, simplify the rules such as those on the control of over-compensation for operators of SSGI at local level and improve flexibility in their application, and consider expanding the list of derogations from notification in line with the examples of hospitals and social housing; calls on the Commission to reassess the appropriate level of the de minimis threshold applicable to SSGI and to propose a system which takes into account Member State GDP in calculating the de minimis threshold, so that a specific de minimis threshold can be calculated for each Member State, thus preventing distortions of competition caused by the existence of a uniform, EU-wide threshold; urges that control of over-compensation be used only if the risk of serious violation of competition is ascertained;

43.  Points out that neither the sector, the status of an entity carrying out a service nor the way in which it is funded determines whether its activities are deemed economic or non-economic, but rather the nature of the activity itself and its preventive effect;

44.  Recalls that the key issue is not to distinguish between economic and non-economic SGI, including SSGI, but rather to establish clearly the responsibility of public authorities, in procuring a service, to ensure that particular general interest tasks which have been assigned to undertakings entrusted with the operation of such services are carried out;

45.  In the framework of current EU legislation, calls for clarification of the concepts and the classification criteria used to differentiate between economic and non-economic SSGI, and for a common understanding of SGI with a view to ensuring that their intended aims can be achieved;

Initiative to Advance Reform

46.  Recognises the high value of mutual learning and good practice exchange in inspiring and promoting the further modernisation of SSGI in different Member States, and urges the Commission to continue proactively to initiate and support such activities with, and including training for, regional and local authorities in the application of EU rules to SSGI; stresses that the problems which SSGI providers and beneficiaries have identified need prompt solutions based on a pragmatic approach;

47.  Urges that the Commission, as a follow-up to the 2007 communication on SGI and the current review of procurement and state aid rules, undertake a programme of reform, adaptation and clarification to support and recognise the specific non-market characteristics of SSGI, to ensure full conformity not only with single market provisions but also with the social obligations of the Treaties;

48.  Considers that an EU framework regulation on SGEI, permissible under Article 14 TFEU, is not the central issue at this time;

49.  Considers that the Social Protection Committee has made and will continue to make an important contribution to the common understanding and role of SSGI; notes, however, that its Treaty mandate (Article 160 TFEU) specifies a purely advisory status and does not permit its membership to be broadened to include civil society, the European Parliament, the social partners or others;

50.  Proposes the establishment of a high-level multi-stakeholder working group as recommended by the 3rd SSGI Forum, which is open, flexible and transparent, broadly representative of stakeholders and focused on achieving reforms such as the policy initiatives identified in this report and the opinions thereto, in the 3rd SSGI Forum recommendations, the Commission's second Biennial Report and the SPC reports, as well as any other relevant proposals as they arise; proposes that the working group be co-chaired by the European Parliament and the Commissioner responsible for Social Affairs and comprise representatives of the Parliament, relevant Commissioners, the Council, the social partners and civil society organisations representing users and providers of SSGIs, the Committee of the Regions, local authorities and other relevant stakeholders, the working group could:

   consider the relative merits of establishing a European Observatory or Resource Centre for SSGI to collect information from various sources in the Member States and to enable the exchange of good SSGI practice at the national, regional and local level;
   seek to achieve broad consensus on steps to clarify legal obscurities and ambiguities regarding SSGI.
   evaluate whether European single market regulations which impact negatively on SSGI provision need to be redesigned so as to respect and support Member States' responsibilities in the definition, funding and delivery of SSGI, taking account of the current Commission review of rules;
   carry out, with the assistance of the Social Protection Committee a comprehensive study concerning the functionality of SSGI;
   examine how the Member States, when defining social services of general interest, can take account of gender-specific services, especially advisory and social services particularly designed for women and important services that contribute to women's quality of life and equality, such as health services, particularly sexual and reproductive health services, education and the care of the elderly;
   promote innovations such as a Member State register of SSGI, a pilot scheme on elder care, and action programmes based on the European Voluntary Quality Framework;
   consider how Member States can develop forms of home help including support for elderly and vulnerable persons, by both men and women, and reduce the negative employment and pension impact on those who take care of dependent family members;

51.  Calls for a 4th European Forum on SSGI, to continue the initiative of the 2007 Ferreira report and to review progress on reform; and for the proposed working group to submit a progress report to the 4th Forum, providing the Forum with continuity, direction and substance;

European Voluntary Quality Framework

52.  Welcomes the VQF and insists that application of the principles should be applied and monitored using the proposed quality criteria, in an Open Method of Coordination process in which stakeholders must be included;

53.  Welcomes the fact that the European Commission, in the Key Initiatives annexed to the Communication on European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion, proposes to develop, at a sectoral level, the Voluntary European Quality Framework on social services, including in the field of long-term care and homelessness; recommends that it also address the areas of childcare, disability and social housing, and that it use equal opportunities as an indicator;

54.  Invites the European Commission to clarify the link between the quality framework outlined in the VQF and the Prometheus Programme in order to avoid any duplication; urges Member States to use the VQF to draw up or improve existing monitoring and quality accreditation systems as appropriate for each Member State; takes the view that the functioning of the VQF should be evaluated by the Member States with reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Protocol 26 TFEU;

55.  Emphasises that decent working conditions, for men and women, which are stable and compliant with Member State law and practice, coupled with regular quality training and the participation and empowerment of users, taking gender perspectives into account, are essential for the delivery of quality social services; stresses that volunteers have a valuable role to play in the SSGI sector, but that they cannot take the place of an adequate number of professionally trained specialists such as social workers and general staff;

56.  Calls on the Member States to encourage employment creation and the growth potential of the social, health and education services sector by offering migrants and EU citizens decent working conditions and access to comprehensive social protection systems;

57.  Considers that, among the tasks performed by social workers, particular importance should be given to activities aimed at increasing motivation to undertake work, education or economic activity with a view to becoming independent and self-sufficient;

58.  Considers that the VQF principles could be used to help define service quality criteria for application to revised public procurement rules for tendering and contracts, including subcontracts;

59.  Proposes that further improvement of the VQF should include reference to funding and service provider status;

o   o

60.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the parliaments and governments of the Member States and the candidate countries, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.

(1) OJ L 23, 27.1.2010, p. 35.
(2) OJ L 315, 3.12.2007. p. 1.
(3) OJ L 376, 27.12.2006, p. 36.
(4) OJ L 298, 07.11.2008, p. 20.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0223.
(6) Commission staff working document accompanying COM(2008)0418 - Biennial Report on social services of general interest.
(7) OJ L 307, 18.11.2008, p.11.
(8) Plenary debates, Wednesday, 6 October 2010 - Brussels, item 13, Social provisions of the Lisbon Treaty (debate), statement by László Andor, Member of the Commission.
(9) Report to the President of the European Commission by Mario Monti, 9 May 2010.
(10) Council document of 20 November 2008 (16062/2008, ADD1) .
(11) SPC/2010/10/8 final.
(12) Council document of 15 February 2010 (06500/2010).
(13) Council document of 18 February 2011 (06624/2011).
(14) First Forum on Social Services of General Interest, 17 September 2007, Lisbon, Portuguese Presidency; Second Forum on Social Services of General Interest (SSGI), 28 and 29 October 2008, French Presidency; Third Forum on Social Services of General Interest (SSGI), 26 and 27 October 2010, Brussels, Belgian Presidency.
(15) Council of the EU, press release (Press 358), 2916th Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 16-17 December 2008; Council of the EU, press release, 9721/2/09 REV 2 (Press 124), 2947th Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting, Luxembourg, 8-9 June 2009; Council of the EU, press release, 17323/1/10 REV (Press 331 PR CO 43), 3053rd Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 6-7 December 2010, Social services of general interest, p. 18.
(16) OJ C 57, 10.3.2007, p. 8.
(17) OJ C 305 E, 14.12.2006, p. 141.
(18) OJ C 306 E, 15.12.2006, p.277.
(19) OJ C 301 E, 13.12.2007, p.140.
(20) OJ C 9 E, 15.1.2010, p.11.
(21) OJ C 76 E, 25.3.2010, p.16.
(22) OJ C 212 E, 5.8.2010, p. 23.
(23) OJ C 161 E, 31.5.2011, p. 38.
(24) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0101.
(26) European Social Network (2010): ‘Managing Social Services in Times of Crisis'
(27) Eurofound - Quality of Life Surveys
(28) . Conclusions of the Heads of State or Government of the euro area of 11 March 2011.

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