“Making Europe’s invisible workforce visible: Results of the 2017 stocktaking study on the challenges and needs of family carers in Europe” is the title of our recently submitted statement to the UN ECOSOC. This statement is one of the many initiatives we will be taking in 2018 to give visibility to family carers, arguably Europe’s invisible workforce and one of the most silenced, socially excluded groups.
In 2017, responding to the lack of data on what family carers consider as most useful measures, or policies to better reconcile their work, care and personal life whilst respecting the choices and rights of the person they care for, the COFACE Families Europe network decided to launch a major consultation of family carers in Europe. These are people who fulfil a caring role towards a member of their family, or someone in their immediate circle. We find that the voice of family carers is often missing from policy discussions.
With more than 1,000 answers collected from family carers from 16 European countries, we published a study to provide a better understanding of the situation in Europe and to offer policy recommendations from family carers to better meet their needs and tackle their social exclusion. This study takes a closer look at who family carers are, and what are the main challenges they face, when it comes to accessing resources, services and flexible time arrangements.
One thing is clear: the current situation, in which 80% of care work in Europe falls on family carers, who are left without adequate financial compensation, social rights, or a pension scheme, is simply not sustainable.
Family carers are mostly women (85%), aged between 35 and 64, who are often part of the ‘sandwich generation’ and provide care for multiple people (27%). In our study, 1 of every 3 carers provide very high intensity care of 56 hours per week, or more, which explains that 43% of the family carers are economically inactive. There is often no one who would help them in fulfilling the caring role (31%). The testimonies given by family carers provide a comprehensive overview.
Meeting the needs of family carers contributes to the quality of care, or support and also helps to preserve a quality family life. Investment in 21st century community-based support services and family support measures, with special regard to work-life balance policies would contribute greatly to the social inclusion and wellbeing of all families.
First-hand recommendations from family carers include the following:
- Provide access to affordable community-based services.
- Provide financial support and social security to the carer.
- Fast and simplified structures for administrative procedures.
- Providing reconciliation measures to fulfil both professional and care responsibilities.
- Involvement, inclusion and awareness raising of carers and persons with support needs.
- Apply preventive health measures and psychological support.
The statement is available here