COUNCIL OF EUROPE
    COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS

    Recommendation Rec(2003)2
    of the Committee of Ministers to member states
    on neighbourhood services in disadvantaged urban areas

    (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 13 February 2003
    at the 828th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)

    The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe;

    Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress;

    Considering that a balanced and harmonious urban environment is essential to the quality of life and the socio-economic and cultural integration of its inhabitants, and to mutual relations based on respect, solidarity and civic peace;

    Aware that public opinion is increasingly attentive to the factors at the origin of segregation phenomena in certain neighbourhoods and the problems this causes;

    Convinced that the degradation of disadvantaged urban areas can be halted only by determined, prolonged action on the part of the public authorities to improve living conditions in these neighbourhoods, foster integration of their residents in the wider urban fabric and enforce the law;

    Considering that the public authorities, and particularly local authorities, play an essential role in creating or restoring harmonious living conditions in disadvantaged urban areas;

    Considering that neighbourhood services have a significant contribution to make to the pursuit of this objective, insofar as they organise social solidarity by providing essential services to cater for specific public needs;

    Noting the extent of the changes currently being made to public neighbourhood services in order to make them more efficient while keeping public spending under control;

    Anxious to give equal rights of access and guarantees to users of public services, whereas noticeable inequalities persist in this field;

    Taking into account its following recommendations addressed to member states:

    – Rec(99)9 on the role of sport in furthering social cohesion;
    – Rec(2001)1 on social workers;
    – Rec(2001)10 on the European Code of Police Ethics;
    – Rec(2001)19 on the participation of citizens in local public life;

    Having regard to the report of the Steering Committee on Local and Regional Democracy on neighbourhood services in disadvantaged urban areas and areas of low population, and to the examples of good practice it highlighted;

    Having regard to the following documents of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe:

    – Recommendation 19 (1996) on aspects of urban policies in Europe;
    – Recommendation 26 (1996) on health and citizenship: care for the poorest in Europe;
    – Recommendation 36 (1997) on crime and urban insecurity in Europe;
    – Recommendation 80 (2000) on crime and urban insecurity in Europe: the role of the local authorities;
    – the European Urban Charter;
    – Opinion 18 (2002) on the preliminary draft recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on neighbourhood services in disadvantaged urban areas;

    Having regard to the Strategy for social cohesion established by the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) and to the Human Dignity and Social Exclusion (HDSE) project,

    Recommends that the governments of the member states:

    1. promote measures to ensure that neighbourhood services in disadvantaged urban areas are of comparable standards to those generally offered to citizens, and adapted in form and quality to the specific needs of the neighbourhoods concerned;

    2. achieve the most cost-effective delivery of those services, including by adopting such solutions as grouping services together in one place or developing a “one-stop-service” approach to service delivery, not least in order to minimise the risk of the financial burden being too high or of closing the services;

    3. take account of the guidelines set out in the appendix to this recommendation when formulating their policies and legislation, in order to improve the supply of public neighbourhood services in disadvantaged urban areas as a means of combating urban segregation;

    4. associate local authorities and other public service providers in the definition, implementation and follow-up of national policies to combat urban segregation by the provision of neighbourhood services;

    5. take the appropriate policy, legislative and financial measures – with due respect to local authorities' initiatives, competences and decision-making powers – to support local authorities in their efforts to create and adapt neighbourhood services to the needs of disadvantaged urban areas;

    6. provide translations of this recommendation and its appendix into their official language(s) and distribute them to local authorities and the public by appropriate means (such as websites);

    7. initiate dialogue with the local authorities and other public service providers in their countries, with a view to implementing joint programmes to reduce urban inequalities and segregation that take into account the appended guidelines.

    Appendix to Recommendation Rec(2003)2

    Guidelines on neighbourhood services
    in disadvantaged urban areas (DUAs)

    The public authorities have numerous policy tools at their disposal. The European countries1 have given varying degrees of priority to the following measures: improving infrastructure and facilities, incentives for job creation and economic development, promotion of public participation in local life and improved public services in these areas.

    The different public authorities which are competent for delivering neighbourhood services in DUAs should co-operate; this means, on one hand, that central governments (or regional governments, in federal states) should involve local authorities in all stages of the conception, implementation and evaluation of services provided directly in these neighbourhoods and, on the other, that they should as far as possible help local authorities to implement their own projects and services. However, this does not mean that central authorities should replace local authorities in their duties, nor does it mean that they should recentralise the fight against exclusion; local authorities are, and should remain, the main actors in this fight, those who know the situation best and who are the most likely to bring remedies to it.

    It is also essential that these various policy tools be co-ordinated in a genuine policy for sustainable urban development in order to maximise their effectiveness. Sustainability should be central to any programme or policy for DUAs. Experience in several European countries shows that the difficulties of problem neighbourhoods cannot be solved on a sustainable basis, for instance by urban planning measures or security measures alone; on the contrary, experience has proved that the simultaneous use of a variety of co-ordinated measures has a greater and more sustained impact than, for example, similar measures that are not harmonised in spatial or chronological terms.

    It should also not be overlooked that prevention is easier than cure. Policies applied in DUAs may be extended to other neighbourhoods to avoid the emergence of the vicious circles that cause living conditions to deteriorate and lead to segregation of the local population. Against this background, measures aimed to maintain and improve neighbourhood services enable positive results to be obtained within a relatively short time.

    The upgrading of neighbourhood services may be accomplished by gearing traditional services to the specific needs of residents, by creating special services for these neighbourhoods and by developing new forms of inter-service and inter-authority co-operation.

    I. Better delimitation of target areas

    Public authorities' endeavours (including financial measures) to implement their policies should be well targeted. It is therefore essential to identify correctly both the areas in greatest difficulty and the factors that put them at a disadvantage.

    Given the range of situations existing in problem urban areas, this assessment should be based on evaluations carried out by local authorities or appropriate agencies. The results should be analysed by national authorities, which would then have the technical information necessary to make well-founded political decisions and to provide a legal basis for specific action by local authorities in these areas.

    Governments should therefore intervene, in co-operation with local authorities, at several levels.

    1. Carrying out sociological and econometric research

    This research would serve both to determine the geographical limits of problem areas and potential problem areas and to elucidate the influence of various factors in the emergence and growth of these areas. It would therefore serve to identify the criteria and parameters for classifying areas as problematic.

    2. Assessing the expediency of establishing a flexible national definition of these areas, in so far as such a definition might facilitate the implementation of special measures and programmes

    In some cases, a legal definition could enable intervention to be adapted to various specific situations and could prevent malpractice and waste. When the state commits itself (inter alia, financially) to minimising the negative factors in these areas, it should also ensure that the resources available are used to benefit areas in greatest need. However, this should not become an obstacle to local self-government. Local authorities should maintain sufficient room for manoeuvre to be able to adapt their programmes according to needs.

    II. Reform of services to enable them to assume responsibility for people, not problems

    Any strategy implemented in disadvantaged urban areas and areas with low population density must place people at the centre of concerns and remain responsive to end-users.

    The main objective of these strategies and policies should be to improve the quality of life for residents in these areas and to eliminate any form of social exclusion. Other objectives, such as the improvement of the urban landscape or of the education system, or crime reduction, should only be considered as complementary stages to the main objective.

    If this main goal is to be realised, three requirements should be met:

    1. Specialising administrative structures to reflect the needs of citizens rather than administrative needs

    Here, the model that seems closest to the public's needs is the “one-stop service”. Authorities should make it a priority to introduce this facility, since it increases user comfort and helps contain the cost of these services. “Mobile offices” are also an interesting solution to service provisions in areas where a critical mass of users is not reached. Where it is impossible to set up such a service, efforts should at least be made to avoid any artificial barriers between administrative services and to streamline user reception facilities, so that users can be directed speedily toward the “right” service.

    2. Improving the accessibility of services

    This improvement can be achieved in a variety of ways:

    greater spatial proximity, which implies optimised use of the administration's branches and offices. To prevent this resulting in a pointless increase in costs, effective use should be made of the information technologies available;
    – reduced access time to services, which implies, for example, simplified procedures, opening hours that correspond to residents' schedules and working methods that allow user flows to be better managed and long queues avoided;
    – reduced access costs, particularly for the most disadvantaged groups;
    – better provision for special cases (disabled persons, the most deprived), including a proactive approach in identifying them;
    – taking into account the language problems experienced by many residents of these neighbourhoods;
    – efficient public transport services to facilitate access to public services that cannot be decentralised.

    3. Encouraging the participation of inhabitants and involving them in all projects implemented in these areas

    Several measures may be taken in order to reach this goal:

    – ensure and facilitate access by any citizen to information concerning local affairs (setting up information bureaus, documentation centres, public databases; making use of information technology, etc.);
    – implement a fully-fledged communication policy in order to inform the inhabitants of these areas on the role of different actors and of the possibilities for participation;
    – set up bodies, such as neighbourhood councils, either elected or composed of elected representatives, which could be given advisory and information functions and possibly delegated executive powers;
    – encourage local residents to become involved – directly or via neighbourhood associations – in the design and implementation of projects which have a direct bearing on their neighbourhood;
    – appoint, through local authorities, elected representatives specifically responsible for monitoring neighbourhood problems on a cross-sectoral basis (allocation or delegation of powers on a geographical as well as subject-specific basis).

    III. Reform of services in a global, integrated, trans-sectoral and multi-annual approach

    The fight against exclusion cannot be viewed as an issue that concerns a single authority, a single sector of activity or a single service. In practically all European states, numerous groups, both public and private, are involved in the fight against exclusion in problem neighbourhoods, particularly through the provision of neighbourhood services.

    Given the complexity of the problems in all these areas, it is essential to ensure coherence among the activities undertaken, so as to improve both the impact and effectiveness of the efforts by all those involved. The steps to be taken should include the following elements:

    1. Improving information exchange

    Although valuable, the classic forms of consultation, meetings and information dissemination do not seem adequate. Information technology now offers enormous possibilities for collecting, sharing and particularly processing information. If properly devised and implemented, databases on disadvantaged urban areas, as well as on public intervention in these areas, could be set up at a fairly reasonable financial cost.

    These databases could contain:

    – figures concerning the situation and developments in neighbourhoods in difficulty, giving demographic, social, economic, urban development, health, education, crime and other indicators;
    – figures concerning the public services provided in these neighbourhoods: demand and supply per type of service, results, cost;
    – complete evaluations of user satisfaction, service/price ratio, success rate (for example reintegration rates following retraining, success rates of programmes to combat addiction, crime rates, etc.);
    – information on interesting experiments;
    – a list, as comprehensive as possible, of the different bodies (public bodies, NGOs, private bodies) active in the area.

    The databases should be easily accessible and preferably at least partially open to the public on the Internet, in order to permit comparisons between neighbourhood situations, levels, costs and success rates of public services, trends of different indicators, etc.

    It is also necessary to organise specific training for acquiring the knowledge of how to use these databases and simplified schemes should be set up for integrated information collection, entering and use. They should be used by local authorities to prepare simple management charts presenting a clear, almost real-time picture of the situation in different neighbourhoods, trends and the results of different policies, to help improve the impact of their action.

    2. Ensuring co-ordination and co-operation between public authorities, both horizontally and vertically

    It is essential that real partnerships be established. This requires that each authority is prepared to act in harmony with the other authorities concerned, and even, if necessary, to determine the areas of action together. Without this will to work together, conflicts and competition between public services cannot be completely eliminated. Among other advantages, better co-ordination should prevent overlapping and duplication of the support measures adopted, as well as a clearer picture of the action taken and the people involved. This is not only a question of “making savings” but also of removing a factor that can finally “de-motivate” beneficiaries, who might have opportunities for reinsertion but who find the status quo more advantageous despite the possibilities of integration.

    Moreover, authorities in the same built-up area should also co-operate in setting up neighbourhood services in disadvantaged neighbourhoods; thus municipalities that have no disadvantaged neighbourhoods would help the others to provide services in the neighbourhoods concerned.

    3. Involving and supporting the non-profit private sector

    Involving NGOs, the social partners and other associations in public intervention means taking advantage of the considerable leverage that can be generated by the non-profit private sector's work, including voluntary work. Involving them in decision-making on policies and services and using their resources in managing and following-up activities can only increase the effectiveness of public intervention. Support for NGOs implies using public resources to assist their initiatives: improving the statutory framework for their work in these areas, providing access to some of the information held by the authorities, helping to finance their activities, etc.

    4. Ensuring a successful partnership with the profit-making private sector

    Experience shows that positive results can be obtained when the public authorities encourage businesses in or near these areas, sub-contract services, take part in projects for re-employment or returning to work, etc. Private sector representatives should become genuine partners for the public authorities in deciding and implementing such measures. In addition, where a private operator is licensed to provide a public service, it is necessary to set both clear objectives and standards of public service which the operator must meet under the terms of the licence agreement. The operator should naturally be duly compensated for meeting the standards.

    5. Introducing long-term programmes

    The benefits of programmes to improve neighbourhood services are not always immediately visible. They should therefore be approached in a long-term perspective, by identifying resources in the long term and concluding contracts for periods of several years, between the authorities themselves and also between them and the other partners involved.

    6. Reinforcing international co-operation

    Governments should make full use of the different forms of international co-operation available, in order to exchange their experience and to identify good practices, in particular in fields in which they have less experience, such as assessing needs, increasing the flexibility of services and assessing the impact of measures and policies for fighting exclusion and violence in DUAs.

    IV. Responses to specific needs

    Disadvantaged urban areas have specific needs and require tailor-made responses.

    Several courses of action could be considered to assist problem neighbourhoods, in order to deal with their inhabitants' specific needs and with the quality problems of certain services:

    1. Setting up programmes to provide for persons in need, and encouraging and participating in private initiatives in this field

    The elderly, the ill, disabled people or those dependent on drugs, large families with low incomes, people facing illiteracy and language problems, etc. There are numerous problem scenarios in DUAs and they should be viewed as a priority.

    2. Improving housing and living conditions

    Several measures could be taken to improve the state of housing, particularly council housing:

    – carry out renovation work and/or encourage private initiatives for housing renovation (including the use of financial or tax incentives);
    – encourage tenants to play an active role in managing blocks of flats (including financial incentives), offer specific training and encourage them to share experience;
    – maintain or encourage a mix of social groups in these neighbourhoods.

    3. Improving education, life-long learning and training structures

    Several measures could be adopted to improve provision of this kind of service in DUAs:

    – grant structures responsible for these services greater flexibility, so that they can adapt to the labour market's actual needs and the specific characteristics of DUAs;
    – step up security in schools: take the need for security into account when designing and/or renovating buildings, increase the presence of adults, foster co-operation between the various services (education, training, social assistance, police) to combat extortion, violence and illegal substance trafficking in and around schools;
    – set up support and supervision units for pupils at local level, care structures for young people in difficulty, introduce or strengthen the role of educational care assistants;
    – establish or strengthen links between schools and neighbourhood associations;
    – network the different structures working with children, pupils and young people;
    – create municipal councils of children and young people in sensitive neighbourhoods in the same way as in other neighbourhoods; these bodies should help to give young people an overall view of the town or city they live in;
    – assess the success rate of life-long learning and training structures by the rate of re-entry to the job market and vocational success, and review the services in the light of these results;
    – encourage and participate in private education, life-long learning and training initiatives;
    – adjust or provide for the adjustment of school curricula, particularly in response to problems of Illiteracy and/or language learning;

    – take steps to encourage the more experienced teachers to teach in difficult neighbourhoods (career prospects, salary incentives, etc.);
    – provide teachers in difficult neighbourhoods with opportunities for further training tailored to the particular circumstances of these areas and the needs of pupils living there.

    4. Adapting health and other welfare services to the situation in these areas

    People living in DUAs should have easy access to welfare services suited to their needs. Setting up units specialising in the health problems most frequently encountered in these areas and taking preventive action in co-operation with voluntary-sector associations are examples of such measures.

    The role of social workers in DUAs should be strengthened. To this end, it would be useful to:

    – adapt the number of social workers in DUAs to the situation of these neighbourhoods;
    – encourage the recruitment of students, teachers and practitioners from minority and ethnic groups and support the development of social work methods which are appropriate to the needs of all communities;
    – offer social workers from difficult neighbourhoods training which is adapted to the specificities of these areas;
    – take steps to encourage the more experienced social workers to work in difficult neighbourhoods (career prospects, salary incentives, etc.);
    – provide social workers in difficult neighbourhoods with opportunities for specific further training suited to the particular circumstances of these areas and the needs of the people living there.

    5. Improving the cultural, sports and entertainment infrastructure and offering adapted programmes

    Inhabitants of DUAs should dispose of an infrastructure which is satisfactory both in quantitative and qualitative terms. Sports, cultural and entertainment programmes should be implemented in these neighbourhoods which are inexpensive, diversified and adapted to the ethnic, cultural and age specificity of the inhabitants.

    6. Adapting police and security services to the needs of DUAs

    Various measures could be taken to bring policing services closer to the people and make them more effective and welcome in these areas:

    – deploy resources in accordance with needs: review the geographical balance of police forces in the light of neighbourhood crime rates, outsource certain logistical functions when this can improve the quality/price ratio;
    – professionalise neighbourhood policing: introduce initial and in-service training for neighbourhood police, foster staff loyalty by offering interesting career and salary prospects, deploy experienced staff in sensitive areas;
    – modernise the organisation of police work: involve staff as well as local inhabitants in neighbourhood police project development, apply modern management methods and train staff in such methods, adapt police work evaluation tools to local objectives and draw up operations management charts;
    – fully integrate the need and ways to challenge and combat racism and xenophobia in neighbourhood police training;
    – foster the development of partnerships: strengthen links between police and associations, organise meetings, events and open days for residents in difficult neighbourhoods, involve the public in the definition and evaluation of police work;
    – foster good co-operation between the various services with policing powers (municipal police, national police, gendarmerie, rapid reaction forces, riot squads): clearly define the powers of each service and their limits, arrange for them to share joint databases and to co-operate effectively with one another;
    – keep private security services under control: staff training, status and approval of private security agencies and their staff.

    7. Restoring economic vitality to DUAs

    DUAs are often victims of economic desertification as the small firms and local shops that are an essential part of the urban fabric move away. People who live in DUAs must have access to these services, especially as the difficulties caused by their absence are often compounded by transport difficulties. Action must be taken to foster the continued presence or the return of local shops and small firms capable of offering employment to local residents.

    V. Consolidation and encouragement of the use of information technologies

    The new information technologies offer genuine opportunities to improve the accessibility of services, their appropriateness to each user's needs and their efficiency. The public authorities should make efforts to:

    1. Introducing a genuine computerised structure

    All public authorities, however small, should gradually be equipped (with hardware and software), train their staff and set up a computer strategy based on the following elements:

    – information management (data collection and processing and sharing of data with other authorities and services);
    – provision of on-line services (information and advice, the option of carrying out certain tasks on-line, such as filling in forms, paying taxes and charges, etc.);
    – encouragement for citizens to take part in choosing, managing and evaluating services, through highly interactive computer resources, information campaigns, training, etc.

    Authorities at higher levels should help and encourage the efforts of small municipalities in this area by, for example, offering financial help, consultancy, training and technical skills and by permitting the municipalities to connect to existing networks.

    However, the development of these digital networks and the provision of on-line services must take into account the special need of residents in these neighbourhoods for real human contact.

    2. Fostering the development of data transmission systems

    Certain national measures (particularly in the fields of tax, tariffs and competition policy) extend beyond the scope of policies implemented in disadvantaged areas. Nevertheless, it would be worth checking the relevance of direct measures to develop the digital infrastructure in the DUAs (public investment in high-speed systems, assistance for companies investing in this infrastructure).

    3. Encouraging residents to connect to digital networks

    Here, too, various general, tax and tariff incentives could have a positive impact but usually extend beyond the disadvantaged areas. Information, training and consultancy programmes on digital technology would, in any case, be appropriate in problem neighbourhoods. Direct financial assistance measures (reimbursement of part of the cost of buying equipment, connection and training) could also be considered in these areas.

    4. Establishing or providing incentives for establishing "computer service points"

    These computer services points, such as Internet cafés, online multi-service access points or other public facilities offering training in and use of information technology in a pleasant, friendly atmosphere, could help to eliminate the “digital gap” which is appearing in certain cities between the inhabitants of disadvantaged neighbourhoods and inhabitants of other neighbourhoods.

    VI. Introduction of effective evaluation systems

    All projects and services put into practice in disadvantaged urban areas should be subject to an effective evaluation system. Here, there are several basic requirements.

    1. Seeking user feedback concerning the quality and quantity of services

    The latest technology makes it possible to collect and process this information at low cost. Use of traditional methods, although more expensive, is also necessary to obtain the reactions of non-IT users.

    2. Carrying out regular evaluations, so that the results can be used to review or improve services

    Flexibility of services, although important, is of little value without an evaluation system that allows decision-makers to appreciate the impact of existing changes and foresee the consequences of those that are planned. Relatively detailed evaluations should be conducted regularly. The research and information retrieval required to determine certain parameters (for example, impact indicators2) may be expensive. Nevertheless, other indicators can be calculated very easily (for example, results indicators3) and these should be used to present the state of an activity almost in real time.

    3. Using quantifiable, precise and reliable criteria for evaluation

    Qualitative indicators should not be used in isolation. Quantitative indicators and criteria are also very important. However, these indicators should fulfil certain criteria:

    – they should be relevant and objective, and sufficiently precise in describing reality;
    – they should remain reliable, even when the situation changes;
    – they should be known in advance, without this resulting in undesirable adjustment mechanisms.

    4. Creating “control panels” and benchmarking systems

    Indicators should be consolidated into real management charts which should be reactive and efficient and should be built on several levels: synthetic ones for rapid overviews and more detailed ones for in-depth analysis. These management charts should be used regularly by decision makers and staff concerned in order to detect in due time changes and results of different policies.

    Benchmarking systems should also be prepared in order to be able to compare the problems, the means involved, the solutions chosen, the evolution of the situation, the level of satisfaction of users, the results (success or failure) of the different projects in different neighbourhoods and communities.

    Such management charts and benchmarking systems should be public and available to all citizens, preferably on the Internet.

    5. Including in the evaluation “spillover” effects

    The activities, projects and services introduced in these areas may have beneficial effects that extend beyond the areas in question. For example, a fall in the crime rate in neighbouring districts may indicate that the action taken has had a positive effect, even where the situation in the problem neighbourhood in question remains worrying. At the same time, there may be external influences on the target areas that should be taken into consideration during evaluation. For example, natural trends should be taken into account before using only statistical data about these areas to assess a policy's success (on the basis of impact indicators).

    6. Entrusting the evaluation of services to competent organisations that are unlikely to be influenced by the service providers

    Such an approach will promote objectivity and professionalism. It is more difficult to have internal evaluation skills and to make sure that those in charge of the evaluation are independent if they belong to the administration that also offer the service.

Note 1 These guidelines are based on good practices developed by Council of Europe member states and identified by the Steering Committee on Local and Regional Democracy in its report on “Neighbourhood services in disadvantaged urban areas and in areas of low population”.
Note 2 Indicators describing the situation of an area/the quality of life of its users (e.g. unemployment, criminality, school failure rates); their fluctuations may provide information on the effects of public authorities' action.
Note 3 Indicators concerning the service output (e.g. the number of services delivered, number of users, quality of services).


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