Europe’s largesse

The European Union has proved a valuable
source of finance and inspiration for social care in the UK,
lecturer in international social care Brian Munday
offers a guide to sources of EU funding.

There is no escaping the continuing and
sometimes acrimonious debate over the UK’s position in Europe.
Baroness Thatcher’s view is that the UK should never join the Euro
and should preferably leave the European Union. The latter is now
unthinkable in the real world while a referendum vote on joining
the Euro may well result in a modest “yes” majority. True, there is
still genuine uncertainty about the “added value” to the UK of its
membership of the EU but this article argues that there are clear
opportunities for social care agencies, their users and staff that
are still only being partly realised.

Globally, similarities are
rapidly becoming greater than the differences – at least in the
developed world. In social policy the term “globalisation”
indicates that most countries exhibit similar economic and social
trends, while facing increasingly similar social problems – and no
single country has all the answers. In the EU the issue of “social
exclusion” is an obvious example. All member states recognise that
they have groups of citizens who, for various reasons, are excluded
from access to resources and rights enjoyed by mainstream society.
Many socially excluded citizens are long-term users of social care
services. In response, the European Commission has launched
substantially funded programmes to enable countries to work
together on ways of reducing or eliminating social

striking feature of discussions about the problems of health and
social care in the UK is the search for ideas and solutions from
abroad. There are two striking recent examples. First, Alan
Milburn’s enthusiasm for the greater integration of health and
social care services in Sweden that helps to overcome the problems
caused in the care of older people by bed-blocking. And second, the
practice of fining local authorities if they are too slow in
providing community-based accommodation for elderly and disabled
patients fit for discharge, first adopted in Denmark. As well as
looking for new ideas from abroad the NHS is actively recruiting
staff from Europe, paying for UK patients to have certain
operations in France, and engaging specialists from other countries
to work intensively on short-term assignments in the UK.

offers “added value” for UK social care. It hardly seems possible
now that there was a time when the UK looked almost exclusively to
North America for new ideas in social policy and social work. That
former dependency began to change in the 1970s and has accelerated
with our membership of the expanding EU. But many applications for
Community Care‘s annual Isabel Schwarz travel fellowships
are still for study visits to North America and Australia,
reflecting uncertainties about working in another language and
limited knowledge of social care services in other European

despite this one of the features of social care development in the
UK in recent years has been its steady “Europeanisation”. Evidence
of this includes the growing number of social care agencies, their
staff and users involved in EU-funded programmes, the number of
statutory and voluntary agencies that have secured often large sums
of European funding to develop their social care services, and the
introduction of European comparative material into social work
training courses reflecting the increasing literature and research
findings from European-wide studies.

So how
does a UK social care agency begin to tap into Europe? It is
important to emphasise that there is no easy “pot of gold” – or
euros – in Brussels which can solve the problem of funding core
social services in the UK. The EU’s responsibility for social care
remains quite limited so that social care applicants for Brussels
funding must meet the requirements of EU social policy programmes
in priorities such as employment creation and social exclusion
reduction. The European Social Fund1 (ESF) is the main
source of European funding available to social care agencies in the
UK. Its funds are available “for activities to develop
employability and human resources” with the following funding
priorities between 2000 and 2006:

Active labour market policies.

Equal opportunities for all and promoting social

Improving training and education and promoting lifelong

Adaptability and entrepreneurship.

Improving the participation of women in the labour

One or
two features of ESF funding need to be emphasised. First, ESF
provides up to a maximum of 45 per cent of the full cost of a
successful application. The remaining “match funding” must come
from other sources. Secondly, unlike other forms of EU funding (see
below) UK applicants for ESF funding do not normally need partners
in other EU countries. The advantage is that the construction and
subsequent management of funded projects is less complex and time
consuming. A disadvantage is the loss of exposure to different
service models and practice from abroad.

voluntary organisation RPS Rainer is a good example of an agency
that has been very successful in securing ESF funding. RPS Rainer
provides care, support and new opportunities for 10 to 25-year-olds
who are at risk of family breakdown, young people in or leaving
care, offenders, homeless people or those outside education,
training or employment. This makes it a likely recipient of ESF
funding and it has successfully applied to the tune of around
£4m. This has been used primarily to develop its Breaking the
Cycle programme that offers young people opportunities for personal
development and access to training and employment.

Equal Programme2 is a recent social programme funded
through ESF that is proving relevant and attractive to social care
agencies. Equal describes itself as “an initiative which tests and
promotes new means of combating all forms of discrimination and
inequalities in the labour market, both for those in work and those
seeking work, through transnational co-operation”. The programme
also includes action to help the social and vocational integration
of asylum seekers. It is different from other forms of ESF funding
in that projects are transnational with UK agencies collaborating
with partners in other EU countries.

European Institute of Social Services (Eiss) is co-ordinating Equal
projects involving RPS Rainer, Kent social services department and
Carers UK. The first project will develop and test a nationally
transferable model of resettlement that ensures the smooth
transition from prison to community and sustainable employment for
young offenders aged 16 to 18. The second aims to develop and
transfer new methods of supporting people from several
disadvantaged groups to gain and retain employment. It will form an
intermediary organisation bringing together unemployed people with
employers. The third project will test mechanisms to support 2,000
carers towards employment in six pilot areas, and develop a
national partnership of the main interest groups in this field. The
total European funding element in these schemes is around
£3.7m – a very considerable sum for new developments in the
broad field of UK social care.

well as the ESF, Brussels regularly launches new programmes that UK
social care interests can and do apply for. The Gender Equality
programme is concerned with such issues as tackling gender gaps in
the labour market, promoting women’s participation in political,
economic and social decision making at all levels, improving social
rights such as parental leave, and changing behaviour and attitudes
with gender roles and stereotypes. All proposals must be
transnational and include proof of at least 20 per cent

Another important initiative is
Daphne, a programme to fight violence against children, young
people and women. There is a strong emphasis on encouraging
collaboration between NGOs and public bodies in the fight against
violence, and on raising public awareness of the problem of
violence and other forms of abuse. The EU will pay up to 80 per
cent of project costs up to a value of between
£30,000-£125,000 per project.3

are only some examples of funded programmes relevant to social care
that emanate from Brussels. Of course, Europe is much more than the
EU and there is no time here to consider the implications for
social care of the enlargement of the EU when former communist
countries will become members. As Community Care has
reported, there is already substantial EU and UK government funding
and agencies’ involvement in the much-needed development of social
care in central and eastern Europe.4

what are the benefits and costs of greater European involvement for
UK social care agencies? Obviously the funding – sometimes
substantial – enables them to start or develop services for users
that could not otherwise be afforded. This means that individual
users benefit personally from these services and also from
participation in transnational visits and exchanges – another major
benefit. Participation in transnational projects also exposes
agencies and their staff to different, sometimes better forms of
services and individual practice. Good practice in social care can
be imported from abroad.

recruitment and retention can be an important benefit for agencies
known to be active in Europe.

there are also undoubtedly costs to be considered. These include
the need to co-finance involvement in most EU projects. The cost of
staff time in making applications and subsequent involvement in
funded projects can be high, and the sometimes time consuming and
irritating bureaucracy involved in meeting Brussels’ funding and
other requirements is another factor to be borne in mind when
considering whether to make an application.

But if
the potential benefits seem to be worth the costs, and you are not
already involved, how do you get started? There are several
possibilities. Your local authority or agency might have an
European officer who can be consulted for information and advice on
funds and projects that may be suitable for you. An initial audit
of your activities, interests and needs can be a useful starting
point. Larger agencies – particularly local authorities – may have
an office or agent based in Brussels that can be used for
up-to-date information on what is available and how best to make
applications. There are also some intermediary organisations
including the European Institute of Social Services5 at
the University of Kent which has the expertise to assist social
care agencies interested in capitalising on the UK’s membership of
the EU.

European social fund cash has helped…

– A two-year project by Buckinghamshire social
services to provide opportunities for disabled adults to gain paid
employment through an individualised service with support and

– A three-year project by the Scottish Borders
Council offering integrated skills training and work experience to
prepare disabled people and people with learning difficulties for
further training or paid employment.

– Surrey social services have secured a range
of funding mainly under the heading of “developing a skilled
workforce in the care sector” and have launched projects to enhance
the social inclusion of 13-17 year olds at risk of disengaging from
education and training.

Brian Munday is senior lecturer in
international social care at the University of Kent

Web sites and references

The European Commission regularly
publishes information on new social programmes that are relevant to
social care interests (see the website

1 For more
information about the European Social Fund see

2 See

3 See


4 F Rickford,
“Eastern promise”, Community Care, 28 March



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