Public Procurement in Social Services: Social Objectives and Considerations

On 17th October, the Social Employers and EPSU co-hosted a European Meeting on the topic “Socially responsible Public Procurement for Social Services”. Speakers and participants included representatives of Employers and Trade Unions, as well as from European Institutions.

Around 40 participants from across Europe discussed the state of play of national public procurement practices and identified what can be done at European level to promote socially responsible public procurement in the field of social services.

In the first panel, Anna Lupi from the European Commission’s DG GROW presented the new set of EU Public Procurement rules introduced in 2014 and the state of play of Member State’s transposition of the directive.

This was followed by an intervention from Valentina Caimi from the European Association for Information on Local Development (aeidl), who introduced some initial findings from the Buying for Social Impact (BSI) project. In the same session, Leonardo Ebner from the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) presented the role of local and regional governments as services providers and CEMR’s stance on public procurement.

In the afternoon, speakers from EPSU affiliates FP CGIL (IT), UNISON (UK) and SIPTU (IE) and Social Employers affiliates from ActiZ (NL), Hyvinvointiala HALI ry (FI) and FONSS (RO) presented the impact of the EU Public Procurement rules in the sector, providing perspectives from social partners and hands-on examples from their respective countries.

Concluding the day, Luca Scarpiello, Policy Officer for Health and Social Services, stated that “Today we initiated an important discussion on public procurement and how to make sure we don’t lose the specificity of our sector in that process. Although the Directive provides contracting authorities with instruments to achieve social and environmental goals, they are not obliged to pursue those goals. Following the detrimental impact on social services of the economic crisis and the ensuing cuts to national budgets, the priority is for us to have an implementation of the directive that can reverse the trends on declining quality and improve frequency of service provision and dignity of workforce in the interest of all European citizens.”

Sylvain Renouvel, Director of the Federation of European Social Employers added: “For public procurement to function in our sector, we have to consider several aspects to make sure the services we provide remain intrinsically social. We will continue to work on this topic with EPSU, by dealing more concretely with some of the elements brought up in today’s discussion. Together, we are ready to move further, in the framework of EU sectoral social dialogue.