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European Social Services Awards (ESSA)

The European Social Services Awards (ESSA) recognise innovation and excellence in social services, shining a spotlight on successful new approaches and the extraordinary ongoing work done by public social services managers, funders, planners, providers, and deliverers of social services.

Its aims are:

  • To identify and promote best practice in social services
  • To recognise excellent work done in the field
  • To encourage peers to work with and support each other in improving their practice
  • To promote innovation in social services in Europe

The entries, submitted in the five categories, are shortlisted by a panel of experts and then voted online. Final scores are based both on the judges and online votes. In line with ESN’s ethos of promoting peer relationships and a social service community, the final decision on the headline award, the ESN Excellence in Social Services Award, is made by all those gathered at the annual awards ceremony from across the social service community, with live voting at the event

ESSA 2021

Each year, the European Social Services Awards are held under social service practice theme. The European Social Services Awards in 2021 are held under the theme

Building Resilience in Social Services.

During the pandemic, all populations have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but in particular children, vulnerable families like those where parents are in unstable or low paid jobs, the homeless, and older adults, especially those living in residential facilities, all of them populations with whom social services work.

Closure of schools meant that the most vulnerable could not access support services operating through schools such as free school meals leading to the increase in the numbers of children at risk of poverty. The sharp increase of unemployment led to a rise of families in need of income support. Domestic abuse, violence against women and children, homeless’ struggle to find shelter, reduction of care for people with disabilities, the isolation of older people, in residential and home care, are only some of the major challenges social services have faced during the past months.

Social services jumped into action to improve service delivery to those in need. The pandemic brought to light the essential role social services play in improving people’s lives as well as the urgent need to build more resilient services and communities.

While some challenges emerged as a direct consequence of this crisis, others related to social needs that were not adequately met prior to the crisis worsened, such as the lack of adequate housing and quality long-term care. In many European countries, years of under-investment before the pandemic meant that the social services sector struggled to meet the growing demand for support while ensuring the quality, accessibility, and continuity of services.

In 2021, the European Social Services Awards will explore how social services have responded to the crisis to ensure the continuity and quality of care for vulnerable populations and those in need of support across Europe. The Awards will honour the effort of social services in developing practice and programmes responding to immediate needs but also looking ahead towards building resilient services and communities that are better prepared for future crises.

Therefore, the aim is twofold:

  1. To recognise the central role of public social services in responding to the Covid emergency and in the recovery after Covid.
  2. To highlight the need to strengthen public social services to improve their preparedness for future crises.

The 2021 Awards seek to honour efforts to develop innovative and resilient models of care and support for all population groups: children and youth, families, adults with complex needs, older people, informal and formal carers.

Submissions may relate, for instance, to:

  • crisis-preparedness plans and emergency responses to support the most vulnerable populations in light of health and social emergencies;
  • crisis-preparedness plans and emergency responses to support the workforce in light of health and social emergencies;
  • the development of coordination plans between different levels of government, other agencies and third sector organisations to ensure continuity of care;
  • the development or promotion of community/volunteering initiatives in support of public services;
  • the development of innovative practice to guarantee the continuity of care;
  • the development of digital tools to facilitate the provision of social services and guarantee the continuity of care for the populations covered by social care and social services;
  • the development of digital tools to address isolation/loneliness isolation of vulnerable people in residential or home care;
  • the investment in telecare to provide support for people to remain in their homes;
  • the development of projects and protocols for joint working between different care services;
  • the development of practice or projects to take into account the views and wishes of people using social services and their families in planning.

ESSA 2020

Each year, the European Social Services Awards are held under a particular theme, with the aim of shining a spotlight on particular areas of social service practice.

The European Social Services Awards in 2020 were held under the theme “Transforming community care”.

In 2020, the European Social Services Awards focused on how social services have transformed the ways they provide care in the community to support the most vulnerable.
With a goal of improving people’s quality of life, community social services support people in need taking account of their individual wishes, needs and assets, giving them the chance of being fully included in society. ‘Transforming community care’ will also be the overarching theme of the 28th European Social Services Conference that will take place in Hamburg in June 2022.

With a focus on transforming community care, the Awards seek to honour efforts to come up with innovative models of care in the community for all population groups: children and youth, families, adults with dependency needs, informal and formal carers.

Submissions may relate for instance to:
• the development of a foster care programme for children and youth,
• the development of tools to support children and youth in child protection,
• coordinated children’s services initiatives involving family and services partnerships,
• the development of procuring and contracting for quality with a range of social providers,
• developing of wellbeing and life quality indicators for community-based social services,
• improvement programmes for community-based services,
• improvement programmes for the workforce,
• crisis-preparedness plans to support the most vulnerable in light of health and social emergencies,
• crisis-preparedness plan to support the workforce in light of health and social emergencies,
• co-housing community developments for older adults,
• replacement of institutional with community-based services for any population group,
• intergenerational programmes,
• children and adults safeguarding programmes.

ESSA 2019

This first edition of the ESSA coincided with 20 YEARS of ESN as a network, building and exchanging knowledge in social services across Europe. As such, it took place under a subject central to ESN’s work – Celebrating Quality in Care – also a key theme of the European Social Services Conference 2019 in Milan. The goal was to honor the efforts of measuring, managing and improving the quality over a variety of activities and target groups, from research to practice, from childcare to elderly care, and from carers to providers.