The Government of Spain approves the Strategic Project for the Social and Care Economy

Council of Ministers - 2022.5.31

Moncloa Palace, Madrid

The Council of Ministers has approved the Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation(PERTE) of the Social and Care Economy,in which more than 800 million euros will be invested until 2026. The initiative is part of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan and was presented last Friday by the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez.

The Second Vice-President of the Government of Spain and Minister for Work and Social Economy, Yolanda Díaz, stressed that this is a unique strategic project in the European Union, which is linked to the European Action Plan for the Social Economy led by the Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit.

PERTE is articulated around two general objectives: the promotion and development of the Social Economy and the strengthening and transformation of services in the field of care, to make them accessible and people-centred. A third objective, of a strategic nature, is the creation of a cutting-edge hub to focus and distribute knowledge with the entities that make up this economic model.

Social Economy

The Second Vice-President and Minister for Work and Social Economy, Yolanda Díaz, during her speech at the press conference after the Council of Ministers | Foto: Pool Moncloa/Fernando Calvo

Díaz recalled that the Social Economy accounts for 10% of the Gross Domestic Product, employs more than 2,200,000 people and encompasses more than 43,000 companies. The initiative is supported by Next Generation funds and is at the centre of public action, as 13 ministries are involved with the aim of promoting policies to enable its extension.

"We are going to launch the Social Economy. We want to make Spain a reference point for the Social Economy in the world and in the European Union", said the Second Vice-President.

In her opinion, this type of economy is "supportive, resilient, puts the human being at the centre, is feminist par excellence and has shown us that, in crises, it cooperates and is much more inclusive than the conventional economy". Díaz also pointed out that "it anchors the population in depopulated areas, especially in rural areas, and is committed to sustainability, the circular economy, the green economy and the blue economy".

The PERTE includes initiatives to resize enterprises in their different legal forms, especially cooperatives, to ensure their business viability, to improve their competitiveness and to maintain employment. In addition, it pursues the internationalisation of these companies.

Care revolution

Yolanda Díaz added that the great revolution pending in this century is the "care revolution", especially from the perspective of ageing.

In this sense, the vice-president explained the lines of action of PERTE, which contemplate the professionalisation of the health care and dependency sector in order to give more quality of life to people. In addition to residential care, new formulas demanded by people, such as care in their own homes or the creation of collaborative housing, will be addressed.

Moreover, the project improves the supply of social and educational services in rural areas in order to tackle rural depopulation. It promotes digital education and training, creates a digital tool to facilitate contact between consumers and producers for the sale and distribution of agri-food items in local markets and promotes gender equality.

The vice-president defended that it is a unique, supportive, feminist and sustainable PERTE, which will be completed with three regulatory modifications: a new law on the Social Economy, another on cooperatives and a third on insertion companies.

Customer Care Act

The Minister Minister for Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, during the press conference after the meeting of the Council of Ministers | El ministro de Consumo, Alberto Garzón, durante la rueda de prensa posterior a la reunión del Consejo de Ministros.

The Government has agreed to submit to Parliament the Customer Services Bill, the aim of which is to make it easier for consumers to exercise their rights before the companies they have contracted in a faster and simpler way and with greater guarantees.

The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, said that customer services are indispensable in consumer relations, but regretted that, until now, the full exercise of the right to be served by businesses has too often been hampered by administrative mazes or excessive waiting times.

"Many people despair when they are faced with a customer service call or when they encounter serious difficulties in unsubscribing from a service, which involves a huge expenditure of energy, time and money that often ends up meaning the waiver of the effective right to customer service," he explained.

The new regulation, he continued, will achieve the establishment of a floor of protection valid for all contractual relations in our country in the field of consumer affairs and will have a great social impact on people's daily lives.

The future law affects all public and private companies offering basic services such as electricity, gas and water supply, passenger transport, postal, financial and audiovisual communication services with conditional access for payment, and electronic and telephone communications. Also, regardless of the sector, those with more than 250 employees or a turnover of more than 50 million euros.

All such companies must have a customer service desk whose opening hours correspond, as a minimum, to their business hours, although basic service companies must guarantee 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Minor infringements of the provisions of the law may lead to the imposition of penalties of 150 to 10,000 euros or 2 to 4 times the illicit profit made. If they are serious, the penalty can be up to 100,000 euros or 4 to 6 times the illicit benefit obtained.

Extending rights for consumers

The minister highlighted some of the main aspects of the text, such as the time limit for resolving claims, complaints and incidents submitted to the company, which may never exceed 15 days and which, in the case of basic services, will be two hours. Furthermore, no supply may be cut off while a complaint is in progress.

With regard to waiting times for telephone calls to the general information, complaint and after-sales services, it is established that the maximum waiting time will be 3 minutes. Companies shall ensure that 95% of the annual calls received are handled within this time limit.

The exclusive use of robotic customer service systems is prohibited and, if a consumer requests to be served by a person, businesses will have to meet that demand. In addition, they should have resources to cater specifically for the elderly or people with disabilities, for example by providing instant messaging services or sign language interpretation systems.

Furthermore, during the course of a call to the customer helpline, which must be free of charge, it is not permitted to transfer the call to a payphone.

Finally, the company's customer service department should be separated from other departments, such as marketing, in order to avoid new services being offered to the consumer in the course of a communication: "The customer service channel is specifically there to serve the customer and not to make new contracts," Garzón stressed.

New law on development cooperation

The Minister for Territorial Policy and Government Spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, responds to the media at the press conference after the Council of Ministers | Foto: Pool Moncloa/Fernando Calvo

The Council of Ministers has approved the Draft Law on Cooperation for Sustainable Development and Global Solidarity, which will now be sent to the Spanish Parliament for parliamentary processing.

The text updates the existing law on International Development Cooperation, which dates back to 1998, and aligns it with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change, among others.

The Minister for Territorial Policy and Government Spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, has assured that the law will improve the cooperation system thanks to the reform of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), a new Aid Workers' Statute and the provision for the regulatory development of financial cooperation and subsidy regulations. The instruments for coordination, consultation and collaboration between actors, such as the regional governments, local authorities, civil society and the private sector, will also be improved.

Spain's commitment to allocate 0.7% of Gross National Income to Official Development Assistance (ODA) by 2030 will have legal status. Rodríguez stressed that it will also be stipulated that 10% of all cooperation aid will be set aside for humanitarian aid.

32 million for NGOs

The spokesperson acknowledged the role of NGOs in channelling the solidarity of Spanish civil society, and explained that the Council of Ministers has authorised the AECID to call for subsidies for these organisations to the tune of 32 million euros.

Regulation of the National Registry of Prior Instructions

The Government has modified the regulation of the National Registry of Advance Directives and the corresponding automated personal data file where prior instructions, advance directives or equivalent documents referred to in the Organic Law on the Regulation of Euthanasia are collected.

The minister described it as a "technical" regulatory procedure, but important to guarantee the exercise of the right to a dignified death in our country.

Allocation of Recovery Plan funds to the Regional Governments

Isabel Rodríguez briefly explained three agreements of the Council of Ministers concerning the distribution of European funds in the framework of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan.

Firstly, the Executive has authorised the distribution of almost 400 million euros to renew high-tech equipment in the National Health System (NHS) through the 'Plan for Investment in High-Tech Equipment (INVEAT) in the NHS'.

Rodríguez stressed the importance of replacing outdated or obsolete equipment with new generation technology that can be decisive in the early detection of particularly harmful diseases such as oncological or rare diseases.

In addition, the government will allocate 90 million euros among the regional governments for biodiversity and landscape recovery activities in areas affected by mining.

Finally, a further 200 million euros will be allocated to the regional governments to combat child poverty and care for the most vulnerable people.

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