Shining the light on Family
Programme: COFACE Seminar on Reconciling Work and Care responsibilities: a challenge for family carers in Europe
We organised this event at the European Parliament on 26th June to highlight the work of
ordinary people who are selflessly performing extraordinary tasks behind closed
doors, often risking their own health and their own happiness. We want to
trigger a holistic policy response, urge Member States to stop cutting funds
which is detrimental to the quality of care, and instead invest in structures
and services that would enable a real freedom of choice for reconciling care
and working life. 80 % of care hours are provided by informal (family) carers
free of charge. But these hours spent caring for family members is also time
away from paid jobs, social inclusion and pension rights.
The event was co-organised by COFACE and EUROCARERS. Frank Goodwin
, Secretary of Eurocarers
raised some very important key issues during the second panel of the
As MEP Marian Harkin
very well in her introductory speech opening our conference, "what we were
talking about during the event is people’s lives”. She also told the audience,
that carers form the glue that holds societies together, and they are an
invisible force that works behind the closed doors of their homes. Even though
our society couldn’t function without carers, there are no real public policies
addressing the issue and the situation of carers and this is why we need events
such as the one we organised jointly, to achieve a shift in the collective
thinking and address the issues of isolation, of health risks, of lack of
social security and pensions.
, President of COFACE highlighted, that "even in countries where
traditional conceptions about the role of women as carers and the men as
breadwinners are no longer common we often see that women still spend more time
than men in caring for others”. As the conference was especially looking at
reconciling the care responsibilities with work commitments, the spotlight was
especially directed at women.
We gathered fantastic
speakers from very different backgrounds for the conference.
We heard from the European Commission, represented by Patricia Pedelabat
, who focused her
presentation mostly on the Commission’s staff working document on household services.
The President of COFACE Disability Chantal
gave a very powerful presentation conveying the everyday challenges
and suffering of family carers. Her presentation was followed by Céline Simonin
, who presented the
Grundtvig Partnership: "Self-assessment of their needs by Family Carers: The
pathway to support”. She especially highlighted the recommendations to the EU
level policy makers. This presentation was followed by an official handover of
the recommendations to MEP Marian Harkin, who is the President of the Carers
interest group in the European Parliament.
We also heard from Valentina
of the Social Platform and Maciej
of AGE Platform, expanding the current policy context, the main
challenges and also what is needed from both the EU level and member States.
, member of the
EESC, as well as working for UNISON, the biggest Union in Britain and the EU for people
working in the public and especially health service highlighted the many
challenges of the professional care sector, which has direct implications for
the informal and family carers. One of the main issues is that the care
profession is so undervalued and underpaid, that even the professionals lack
recognition, it makes achieving recognition for the family carers even harder.
of Eurofound gave
some very useful, pragmatic examples of how some companies are enabling their
employees to balance their care responsibilities. He also stressed a very
important fact, that there will be more and more people needing care, and less
and less people able to provide the care.
This means, that in current trends, already many countries are unable to
fill the skills gap with their own national workforce, highlighted Antje Gerstein
, of the German BDA, and these
countries will need to rely on immigrant workforce to provide the care services
In conclusion the outlook is quite grim, unless we are able to find
reconciliation measures both on individual levels between the employers and
their employees, as well as starting a larger scale structural discussion on
how to adapt the existing systems to the challenges of the ageing population
and declining birth rates, longer life expectancies and declining economies.
Published on 22 Jun 2012
Updated on 22 Feb 2013