2021 Finalists

The winners in each category were decided by a combination of the votes from our panel of judges (65%) and the public (35%) in November 2021.

The winners of each category were announced at the European Social Services Awards Ceremony on 1 April 2022, where voting for the Social Services Excellence Award also take place. Find out more about the 2021 nominees below.


Meet the 2021 Nominees

Social Service Innovation Award Nominees:

1. Herdanza Mater

With this project, the association AMICOS promotes the social inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities through volunteering activities in environmental protection and heritage preservation. Amicos collaborates with the local fishermen communities, a natural park, local companies and schools to implement the activities. Volunteering activities led by people with disabilities include rising awareness about environmental pollution, climate change or a sustainable connection with the environment. They have been guides for tourists and schools, led beach cleaning, or supported the creation of food gardens in school yards. Participants have been recognised by the local community, including local and social media. Participants report improved satisfaction and self-assurance since the programme started, and the impact in the local community has been key in terms of inclusion and environmental preservation. Herdanza Mater reaches up to 100,000 people in the north-western region of Galicia, Spain. The project intends to scale up to reach up to three million people.

2. The economic case for community care – The ‘Sardinia Model’

With this programme, ABC Italia promotes home services for people with disabilities and their families, customised and co-produced with local services to prevent placements in institutions. The programme involves the design of individualised support programmes for more than 40,000 people per year. In times of Covid, the Social Sardinia Model has proved successful in drastically lowering the rate of institutionalisation, improving social and health services that create social and economic development based on personalised and co-produced interventions for vulnerable populations. Therefore, this project demonstrates that investment in community care provides not only a superior quality of services but also that its management can be more cost-effective than institutional models.

3. LiberActive

Libertus Services replaced a conventional day service for 110 weekly placements for older people at very short notice to respond to the emergency lockdown due to the pandemic. This LiberActive programme provides several new, flexible services and social activities to support people effectively in meeting personal outcomes while living at home. Older vulnerable adults using the service are provided with support, training and electronic enabled devices to access social group activities. This promotes peer interaction at home and in their premises, via tablets, and large screens supported by webcams and a specific app. LiberActive group activities reduce social isolation, as participants take part in a wide range of stimulating and enjoyable activities while remaining in contact with the providers and with their peers.

4. Alternative accommodation for older people to help them overcome loneliness

This project by Madrid City Council supported older people in social isolation to cover their health, physical, and psycho-social needs during the Covid-19 lockdown. The need for this temporary new resource came up as usual services had to stop during the Covid-19 lockdown. Housing facilities were provided for older people in need, who could not return immediately to their homes because of their weakened physical and emotional circumstances. The innovative element comes from its person-centred approach and the fact that this resource was created specifically to respond to the social emergency that the pandemic brought about for these older people. Fifty people were cared for, 35 women and 15 men. Sixty-six per cent were over 80 years old. The accommodation included 55 apartments serviced by a multidisciplinary team of professionals. The evaluation showed that people felt accompanied and cared for according to their personal needs.

5. Local Telecare Service

The Local Telecare Service of Barcelona County Council is a preventive and person-centred service that offers professional support 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It is aimed at people who may be at risk due to age, loneliness, social isolation, health, frailty, disability or dependency reasons. On the one hand, the telecare service attends emergency situations through their inter-administrative collaboration and coordination with community-based services such as civil protection, police, firefighters and health services. On the other hand, from a preventive point of view, it provides home visits, personalised proactive and follow-up calls. In 2020, the pandemic year, the call centre handled a record five million calls. Currently, the service has started a process of digitisation for further adaptation to people’s needs, monitoring patterns of behaviour and generating alerts for early detection of social and health risks and providing digital care programmes that move towards a more predictive service.

6. We revive Villa Corsini

Villa Corsini, a green area rich in history, has long been in a state of neglect. The municipality of Albano Laziale in Italy started a project to promote its regeneration while at the same time activating a social inclusion programme for people with mental health, learning and physical disabilities. The participants, who regularly visit a day centre, volunteered to bring back the historical and artistic heritage of Villa Corsini making the public space accessible again for social, education and health promotion related activities. Volunteers are stimulated through environmental education initiatives and provided with a rehabilitation and resilient pathway from vulnerability and isolation to social inclusion.

Outstanding Team Award Nominees:

1. Socio-Educational Project Team

Social services in Churriana de la Vega in Granada, Spain, realised that young people who were expelled from school spent their time at home alone not necessarily benefitting from this time of reflection. In the meantime, the Council realised that there was a relational and interactional gap between young people and the older generation in the town. Therefore, they set up a mixed team of psychologists, community and social workers to develop joint activities for secondary school students expelled from school and older people in local day and older people’s centres. Thanks to this initiative, younger people’s tolerance and empathy towards older people has greatly improved and there has been an improvement in social cohesion within the local community.

2. Centre for Integration Team

The team of the City Office for Social Protection and Persons with Disabilities of the City of Zagreb has been developing and implementing initiatives such as the Re-Start project and the centre for integration for the past 10 years to promote employment for a number of populations. The City of Zagreb started the Re-Start project to foster the social inclusion of victims of domestic violence (especially the elderly), homeless people and people with addictions (especially veterans) through their centre for integration. The overall goal of the project is to improve access to sustainable, affordable and high-quality additional services for these populations. The project is implemented in partnership with other third sector organisations, social and health support services.

3. A?enzija Sapport Community Services Team

The team at A?enzija Sapport Community Services provides personalised support for people with disabilities in Malta through Individualised Care Plans (ISP). These plans are personalised so that additional social problems beyond disability like domestic violence, unemployment, mental health issues or homelessness are taken into account. The objective of the programme is to help beneficiaries become active participants in the community while promoting their autonomy by learning new skills. Through skills sessions such as cooking, budget management, personal care, housekeeping and shopping, clients are empowered to participate in day-to-day activities independently. In addition, clients complete the skills sessions together with other peers fostering a sense of social inclusion by supporting each other. In 2020, 137 persons with disabilities benefited directly from this service, consisting of 600 service hours per week.

4. DOST Team of Volunteers

DOST Volunteering Program (DVP) is an innovative approach in the field of communication and provision of social services. DVP promotes within DOST (Agency for Social Protection in Azerbaijan) volunteering opportunities provided by the state in the field of social protection. DVP consists of ‘Young DOST’, ‘Silver DOST’ (65+), ‘Virtual DOST’ (online volunteers), and ‘Corporate DOST’ (CSR initiatives and corporate partnership). About 40,000 applications have been made to join the programme. A total of 1,127 volunteers, including people with disabilities and older people, have been trained and 99 volunteers were later employed by DOST and the Ministry for Labour and Social Protection. DVP plays a crucial role in the shift of citizen-institutional relations from a traditional-administrative management model to a multilateral universal service one. During the Covid-19 crisis, DVP provided core frontline operational support to re-shift DOST activities as required during the lockdown periods.

5. Home-Based Therapeutic Services (HBTS) Parenting Team

The HBTS Parenting Team addresses a service gap for families in distress across Malta. The aim of the programme is to keep families together by preventing the escalation of cases to child protection services, preventing placements outside the family, and supporting the return of children who had been placed in external care. The team consists of professionals from multiple backgrounds, like social work, behaviour analysis, counselling, psychotherapy, family therapy, and psychology. With limited resources, the small team provides holistic care and comes up with innovative solutions by collaborating effectively. Meetings with clients are attended by multiple team members and challenging cases are discussed by the whole team. Notes are shared to maximise the transfer of knowledge in the team. The parenting programmes are offered in a group format in residential homes, prisons, or community resource centres, but also individually at home.

6. Social support network team for people in isolation and chronic conditions

With this team, the Health Authority of the Province of Foggia started a reorganisation of social and health support through a shared, multi-professional and cross-cutting working methodology within social and health care systems. Being the second largest province in Italy, the territory of Foggia presents exceptional difficulties on assessing health services which have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a response, health and social care teams have coordinated to define a new intervention model, supported by a computerised social and health record as a model for information sharing, coordinated interventions, removing gaps and overlaps, promoting holistic care, identifying external resources and the appropriateness of actions. This project started targeting people in vulnerable situations and isolation due to Covid-19, but its positive results have led to its expansion to also include people with chronic conditions.

Collaborative Practice Award Nominees:

1. Solidar Social

 ‘Solidar Social’ was initiated by Adi Hadean Foundation with the General Directorate of Social Assistance and Child Protection of the 6th District of Bucharest alongside dozens of volunteer chefs who prepared daily warm meals for vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic. This initiative aimed to create a model of humanitarian response in an emergency to be scalable to regional and national levels. The implementation of this project is based on a public-private collaboration agreement founded on permanent mutual consultation of the partners involved and a proactive approach to difficulties encountered during the pandemic. Since the start of the project, more than 100 volunteers and 60 professionals coordinated to provide warm meals and emotional support to over 250 beneficiaries daily.

2. Support for vulnerable people in the context of Covid-19 pandemic

The Romanian Ministry of Labour and Social Protection in partnership with the ASSOC association launched this project in May 2020 aiming to meet the needs of people suffering loneliness and isolation in poorer communities in Romania. The initiative’s objective is to identify through Mobile Social Support Units people in need who did not have their economic, physical, emotional and social support needs covered during the Covid-19 pandemic. The project involves over 1,000 social and community workers, call centres operators, NGOs and public administrations. It represents an unprecedented example of efficiency reached through coordinating all agents involved and managing interventions according to the specific needs of each person. The results have informed national government for an improvement on how the needs of these vulnerable populations are addressed.

3. Social Services Resilience Challenge

Coruña City Council in the north-western Spanish region of Galicia has been implementing the Resilience Challenge initiative to maintain and reinforce coordination between public, private and third sector stakeholders (such as public services, supermarkets, volunteers and local NGOs), which successfully worked during the social emergency brought about by the pandemic. Coruña City Council has been establishing new coordination protocols and formalising innovative practice, in a collaborative way, though advice provided by the Local Council for Social Inclusion. The improvement of collaboration at community level has led to progress in the assessment, monitoring and provision of support for people who need social services. As an example, progress in coordination between health and social services has led to the improvement of the health conditions of people using these services, especially those affected by mental health problems.

4. National Housing First Programme

Housing First (HF) is an internationally recognised, evidence-based model for individuals who are long-term homeless with complex needs. The HF model consists of 3 components; 1. permanent, affordable housing; 2. mobile case management and treatment services; 3. a philosophy based on client’s choice and recovery. In practice, this translates into permanent housing for individuals, without any preconditions around sobriety or mental health treatment, and then providing the individual with a range of supports to help them maintain their tenancy. Ireland’s National HF Programme provides an opportunity for all stakeholders in the homeless sector to take a new approach to housing treatment and support services in a planned and integrated way. The government departments responsible for housing, health and justice are collaborating closely on the implementation of these reforms. This person-centred approach has achieved until now an 87% effectiveness rate in terms of tenancy maintenance.

5. ‘The Bank’ – Supported living housing project

Woodstock Bank is a collaborative supported living project for people with significant mental illness in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The project has been developed to reduce the delayed discharges in the local mental health inpatient unit. During the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in service users experiencing delayed discharge in acute inpatient mental health hospitals due to the lack of suitable supported accommodation in the community, which causes a detrimental impact on the recovery journey and creates a bottleneck in mental health hospitals. This project is led by social work and social care professionals in Belfast working together with housing providers to quickly develop a new scheme to meet this need. The project has successfully provided a housing solution to 8 service users, providing daily support, and developing a new model of ‘step-down facility’ while promoting independence for users. The successful results have allowed the continuity and potential scalability of the project.

6. Local coordinated network of services

The Department of Health and Social Policies of the Province of Trento in Italy developed this initiative at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic to provide concrete help to meet basic needs of the most vulnerable people. A Call Centre collected the needs of citizens and coordinated a network consisting of local authorities, volunteers, psychologists and health and social services professionals, to offer home-shopping services and remote psychological and relational support, as well as monitoring and following-up with people in need of support. The project has been improved through the different phases of the pandemic, reaching a potential response capacity of up to 10,000 families. The network has cultivated knowledge and practice nurturing, as well as an ongoing improvement of the integrated and coordinated model of intervention. The model has demonstrated its benefits and efficiency so that more territories can implement it as a response to emergencies, and has highlighted the importance of solidarity and having a sense of community during social crises.

Technology Tool Award Nominees:

1. DOST: smart model for sustainable social services

Azerbaijan’s agency for social protection -DOST is implementing a model for a long-term reform that provides the population of Azerbaijan with smooth access to public social services through DOST centres, and deploys state-of-the-art IT solutions, through a ‘single window’ platform. With five centres, covering eleven districts of Baku city and other regions in the country, DOST is providing a centralised electronic system which ensures direct, operational, transparent and easy access to social services, and promotes universal and sustainable services provision., DOST is advancing digitalisation of service provision, automation of processes and decrease of human factor involvement, while ensuring a universal and coordinated service access based on people’s needs. By the end of 2023, it aims to replicate the project and reach each person in need of social protection within the country.

2. At a distance, but close to you

This local initiative from the 6th District of Bucharest has offered continuity to therapeutic services for children with mental disorders during the Covid-19 pandemic through an online tool that also supports parents or legal representatives. A team of specialists (psychologists, educators and 3C therapists) has innovatively put into practice individualised intervention plans with concrete objectives and activities depending on the specific situation of each child. Professionals monitor and analyse the results and provide recommendations for parents or legal representatives. Every intervention plan was designed so that it could be implemented at home and according to Covid-19 restrictions, while professional support and guidance was ensured through telephone and online communication tools. Besides ensuring continuity, this project has prevented regression of progress, promoted the role of the family and strengthened relations between children, parents and professionals.

3. FLAPP! Remote support service for young people leaving care

iSocial Foundation has developed a digital remote support service for young people aged 16 to 23 who are or have been in care in the child protection system, many of whom are unaccompanied children. Available for smartphones and computers, it offers a catalogue of digital tools to facilitate the young person’s process of transition to adulthood and the work of the professionals who support them. The tools offered are the possibility for them to upload and store their documents on the cloud, carry out administrative procedures, information related to emancipation and inclusion needs, direct chat with their professionals of reference, a notification system, and a map of points of interest. FLAPP! is in the process of being rolled out in various Spanish regions to support youth leaving care and the professionals supporting them in their transition to adulthood.

4. MyLearning

MyLearning is a free smartphone-based service provided by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) to allow Social Services workers to record and share evidence of their Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) in a convenient and simplified way. Social Services workers have been traditionally expected to record evidence of their CPL across a variety of systems, hampering their transition into new jobs and the employers’ possibility to track workforce performance. This tool avoids duplication and homogenise the gathering of learning so that Social Services professionals can take ownership over it and promotes continuity of their learning over the ongoing professional positions they may undertake. It is framed under the SSSC commitment of supporting the social service workforce and since it was launched in October 2020, there has been over 15,000 accounts created and over 160,000 CPL logs created by users. MyLearning has and will continue to be updated based on users’ feedback.

5. Virtual reality experience for older people and people with disabilities

The municipality of Gävle in Sweden has developed a new method of using a virtual reality technique for older people and people with disabilities. The method makes it possible for them to experience adventures that they would not be able to experience otherwise. It is a way of engaging older people and people with disabilities in stimulating activities based on their individual needs and preferences. The virtual reality technique is available to 17 nursing homes and 35 centres for people with disabilities. Participants have felt invigorated as they go beyond their daily limitations, especially during the pandemic. They have felt the joy of exploring new simulated experiences, like diving in the ocean or visiting a foreign country. The initiative has also allowed professionals and participants to enjoy technology and to become more familiar with digital tools.

6. Smart fall detection and monitoring system in social care centres

This project aims to implement a single system in all municipal long-term care (LTC) centres in Riga to ensure monitoring of several indicators. These indicators include timely response of care workers in case of emergency, reduce unnecessary contact of care workers with clients, which is particularly important during crises like the Covid-19 pandemic, and provide more effective interventions. The system ensures the safety of clients in facilities and has been labelled as the only suitable system for people with dementia. The initiative is currently being piloted and has already provided evidence of safety, security, and a greater autonomy for clients. Likewise, it has reduced carers response time, easing daily work for professionals, and assuring continuity of care in situations of isolation during Covid-19.

Research Project Award Nominees:

1. Geolocation of social emergency situations during lockdown

Madrid city council implemented data collection and database cross-cutting to map out the social needs of the population during the Covid-19 lockdowns, allowing an improvement in the interventions carried out by the municipality. Thanks to the involvement of the different departments of Madrid City Council, this initiative led to a quick and efficient response to emerging needs during the crisis, identifying new users of social services, sociodemographic profiles and hotspots of vulnerability in the city. Being the first systematic geolocation effort of social emergency situations carried out in the city, the maps created with the collated geographic information allowed the council to have precise information related to each household, to adjust the thresholds to access support to be more aligned with the specific needs of each household, ensuring quicker responses and prioritising higher vulnerability profiles.

2. INSESS-COVID-19: Identification of Emerging Social Needs as consequence of the COVID19 and effect on the Social Services of the territory

A prospective study from an innovative approach based on AI and rapid data collection mechanisms from participatory processes that have involved experts and citizens, to know and foresee the emerging vulnerabilities of the population during the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects in the territory and in the 105 areas of Social Services of Catalonia. This study has gathered 136 professionals and nearly 1.000 social services users. INSESS-COVID19 introduces an innovative mixed methodology that combines data science, knowledge management and AI to create a technological solution that gets direct data from citizens, extracts relevant decisional knowledge from it, and generates automatic final reports in very few hours, thus providing support elements for a better decision making, strategic definition, efficiency of resources and policy making in Social Services, both in front of disruptive situations and situations in which ordinary information systems cannot provide relevant data.

3. Social Work and the Covid-19 crisis

By the end of March 2020, the National Council of Social Workers, the National Foundation of Social Workers and 14 out of 20 Regional Councils of Social Work in Italy joined forces to bring together social workers and researchers to gather knowledge from front line professionals and turn it into improvements in welfare structures and related social policies. The research was based on a survey answered by 20,000 social workers, a group of 30 experts, and 6 virtual communities to analyse data and create the knowledge that not only has helped to better understand the effects of Covid-19 but also to lead towards the necessary change for a more coherent, effective and community-based social welfare system.

4. Screening of Children and Adolescents’ Social Vulnerabilities

Initiative led by Barcelona City Council that aims to develop a screening system to speed up the identification of children and adolescents who are at risk or already suffer from social vulnerabilities and to implement specific actions to address them. With a wide variety of organizations involved, this project is based on a global, holistic, and integral nature of the concept social vulnerability aiming to give voice to those who are not currently identified as vulnerable. The first phase of the project has generated a shared framework allowing coordinated actions among all agents involved. A second phase aims to develop a screening system and pilot it to identify the adequate indicators. It is expected that the final product will lead to a preventive strategy to identify children and adolescents in situations that prevent them from reaching their full potential and contribute to related policy-making.