On the 11th of December COFACE Families Europe intervened during the International Conference ‘Best practice in support of carers’ held in Prague and co-organised by the Czech Society for Gerontology and Institute for Social Policy and Research.
Policy examples and challenges of different European countries were showcased: the Czech Republic introduced a long-term care allowance for working carers in June 2018, but the social and health sectors still need to improve their coordination. Figures on care in the UK show that to date 6.5 million carers contribute with £132 billion to the national economy and the support they receive a decreased by 35% from 2011 to 2017. Sweden spends 2,7% of its GDP in elderly care and was reported by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as having a generally good quality of care, usually carried out at home with respectful behaviour. On the other hand, there is still lack of coordination for those with large and complex needs between hospitals, primary care and municipal long term care. Sweden will have to ensure that reforms for freedom of choice and competition does not contribute to further fragmentation, develop quality assurance by using standards and improve rehabilitation and secondary prevention.
The gender dimension of care was highlighted by MEP Olga Senhalova, co-chair of the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament: women often combine the care of multiple family members with their job, or they have to drop out the labour market due to lack of recognition and flexibility from the employer’s side. This was confirmed by the presentation of Francesca Centola, from Eurocarers. The traditional “male breadwinner/female carer” model identifies the unpaid care work as a primarily women’s responsibility and public policies are often shaping the needs and rights related to caring activities accordingly, perpetuating thus a gendered citizenship. The increase in women’s participation in paid work in recent years has not resulted in a commensurate decline in their non-market work, women often work a “second shift” trading off on their personal care and leisure time in order to fulfil their domestic and care responsibilities in addition to their paid work. Supporting carers would improve gender equality and also make economic sense as it allows savings in welfare benefits and healthcare costs by avoiding the negative impact of care on labour market participation and health, and higher female employment rate means higher contributions to pension funds.
Coming to good practices Richard Humpries from the King’s Fund (UK) presented integrated care as a viable solution to provide high quality person-centred services. An important element to achieve this is a cross-government strategy for carers – across health, care, housing, benefits and pensions. This would pass through the coordination of care and services working with multidisciplinary teams in the areas of information, identification of carers, access to support and respite care with joined-up use of public money. With integrated care, carers will have their support needs assessed and will receive an integrated package of support in order to maintain and/or improve their physical and mental health through flexible, longer appointments, referral to other services, social prescribing and developed integrated services with other agencies. Sue McLintock from Carers Scotland presented the Scottish initiative Carer Positive: an employer recognition scheme to incentivize employers in their support to working carers. The Carer Positive award reached 320,000 employees in Scotland working in 128 organisations and is addressed to employers who have a working environment where carers are valued and supported. Carer Positive employers recognise the importance of retaining experienced members of staff, reducing absence, and cutting down on avoidable recruitment costs.
Irene Bertana COFACE Families Europe Advocacy Officer’s intervention focused on the family dimension of long-term care, showing how the burden of care is disproportionally falling on the families’ shoulders affecting negatively the quality of life of all family members. COFACE Families Europe recommends Member States to initiate policy reforms combining the availability of affordable, sustainable and quality community based services supporting persons in need of care and family carers as the key element to ensure the right of choice. This has to be combined with the recognition of carers giving them the possibility to improve their social protection. Work-life balance measures have to be insured to working carers, alongside with an improvement of the working conditions in the formal care sector. Information on rights and services in place have to be accessible to families which should be involved in the policy making and evaluation of services. COFACE recommends that the European Union reinforces the implementation of Principle 18 of the European Pillar of Social Rights by mainstreaming long-term care in current and future European policy initiatives such as the new European Disability Strategy, set minimum standards by adopting and consolidating legal measures like the Work-Life Balance Directive, improve data collection by developing adequate indicators and related targets on LTC looking also at its gender dimension. The European Semester can be an effective tool to monitor and evaluate national reforms with a view to implement the Social Pillar and European Funds can improve research and innovation in the sector and support local-level organisations in building holistic long-term care services for families. As a framework for this, COFACE Families Europe invites the EU to publish a European Recommendation on Family and Informal Carers. More information on the COFACE recommendations are available on the position paper Long-Term Care: the Family Dimension.
For more information, contact Irene Bertana, COFACE Policy and Advocacy Officer firstname.lastname@example.org