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European Commission

László ANDOR

European Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

Facing new challenges – How social innovation contributes to active inclusion

EUROFOUND-SOLIDAR Joint Conference on "Active Inclusion & Social Innovation" /

Brussels, 27 November 2012

Yesterday, when opening a major Commission conference on social innovation and social policy experimentation, I emphasised the need to give social innovation a prominent place in our policies aimed at achieving the Europe 2020 employment and social goals.

Today's conference establishing the connection between social innovation and active inclusion can be seen in this light. The reference to active inclusion also underlines the need to address the deepening inequalities and growing poverty and exclusion which risk undermining social cohesion and our future prosperity.

We need to sustain social investment into human capital and social cohesion to avoid much higher costs in the future. Adopting such a longer term perspective is challenging in the current circumstances, especially with the strong pressures being put on public expenditure.

But we will pursue this message as part of a so-called social investment package that we will present in the first quarter of 2013. Social investment is based on the idea that social policy — implemented via well-designed, activating, flexible systems — can yield a high economic and social return.

Both active inclusion and social innovation will have their place in the package. More than ever, there is a need for integrated active inclusion strategies, set out in the 2008 Recommendation and based upon the three pillars of adequate income support, inclusive labour markets and access to quality services.

What we see however and what will be addressed in the social investment package, is that only very few Member States have such integrated strategies. Despite the emphasis put on active inclusion in the Annual Growth Surveys only few measures related to active inclusion find their way into the national reform programmes presented by the Member States as part of the Europe 2020 strategy.

In the Social Investment Package we will pay special attention to those groups furthest from the labour market. As active inclusion seeks to fight exclusion and promote employment at the same time, it also makes a contribution to sustainable growth in a context of budgetary constraints and of a workforce that will start shrinking in a couple of years.

In this context, the Commission welcomes the recent report of EUROFOUND on the active inclusion of young people with disabilities and health problems. The results of the report (increase in take-up of disability benefits, debt as a risk factor, the negative impact of increasing work intensity for this specific group, as well as the absence of pathways from education to the labour market and social inclusion) underline the importance of proper and tailored implementation of active inclusion strategies.

Active inclusion of young people is crucial. Young people struggle to find a foothold on the labour market. These difficulties have been amplified during the current crisis, with young people often being the first fired and last hired. Youth unemployment rates are unacceptably high, and there is no sign of improvement. Youth not in education, employment or training implies estimated costs of 153 billion euro per year in Europe.

That is why we are currently preparing the "Youth Employment Package” due for adoption next week. With this Package, we plan to call upon the Member States to establish Youth Guarantee schemes. The purpose of a Youth Guarantee is to ensure that all young people -who have not succeeded in securing an offer on their own- receive an offer of a job, continued education, apprenticeship or a traineeship within a certain period of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.

The Youth Employment Package will also contain targeted initiatives on a Quality Framework for Traineeships, on apprenticeships and mobility. All these initiatives aim at facilitating the transition from school to work.

The different measures aimed at reducing youth unemployment illustrate very well the need for more innovative approaches. Social innovation can not only help addressing new emerging social needs, it often leads to much more cost-efficient measures.

This important role of social innovation has come to an expression in the proposals for the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, the Commission with increased support for social innovation and social policy experimentation as part of the European Social Fund and the Programme for Social Change and Innovation, which replaces the current Progress programme.

The proposal for a Regulation on the European Social Fund for 2014 to 2020 proposes to step up social innovation and transnational cooperation.

The Commission proposed an increase of 10% of the maximum co-financing rate for each priority axis where this axis as a whole is devoted to social innovation or transnational cooperation, or a combination of these.

The proposal for a Regulation establishing an EU Programme for Social Change and Innovation would increase support for social policy experimentation to at least 100 million euro over the period 2014 to 2020.

With the Social Investment Package the Commission will provide guidance to the Member States to make the best use of the EU funds to continue supporting social innovation and social policy experimentation.

Civil society organisations, NGOs as well as service providers and organisations of the social economy experience directly the social impact of the crisis on citizens. They are also key actors in the search for innovative responses and in adapting services to current needs. They are indispensable partners for integrated social policy reforms, based on a social investment approach, that secure and maintain the sustainability and adequacy of public budgets for social policies.

The Commission welcomes the opinions and suggestions of civil society on the whole range of its actions. There are already many occasions on which civil society is consulted and plays an active role. Commission's services are exploring ways to ensure stronger involvement of civil society in the European Semester, and the Member States are encouraged to involve the civic sector in the consultation of the Partnership Agreements that will be developed for the structural funds.

Our common duty is to put in place policies that not only help Europeans accessing employment, but also supporting them with adequate safety nets when necessary, without however creating inactivity traps. To achieve this, the potential of social innovation in active inclusion should be used to a larger extent.

I look forward meeting many of you at the Annual Convention of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion next week. This conference will hopefully provide us with fresh inspiration on how to safeguard social cohesion, fight poverty and develop and adapt our human capital under the constraints of limited public finances and increased economic dependencies.

Today's discussions can feed into our common reflections on how best to achieve a more socially innovative and inclusive society.

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