SOTEU 2021

President von der Leyen highlights plans for new European Care Strategy: have family carers been “forgotten” once again?

Brussels, 16th September 2021

On 15th September, President von der Leyen gave her State of the Union speech, highlighting key priorities to focus on in the coming years.

This includes a number of priorities related to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights including her intention to launch a new European Care Strategy “to support men and women in finding the best care and the best life balance for them”,  a proposal that has been highly demanded by the European Parliament. [1]

COFACE Families Europe, and its COFACE Disability platform for the rights of persons with disabilities and their families, welcomes this ambition for the European Union to lead towards a more caring society and economy, ensuring States take up their responsibilities towards care and persons with care needs.

We are ready to help shape this strategy, bringing the family carer dimension to the table:

– to ensure that family carers are socially recognised and given a set of social rights based on our European Charter for Family Carers, including respite services, financial compensation, pension rights, training and more;

– to ensure that the European Commission commissions a study on family carers which includes specific data and action of carers for a relative with disabilities;

– to ensure the strategy contributes to closing the gender care gap in Europe’s families with mostly women taking on the burden of care, challenging stereotypes around care and the gender gap in the formal care economy;

– to ensure compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the EU Strategy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with independent living and community-based services at the heart of the strategy and not institutional care;

– to ensure the strategy is developed based on a life-cycle approach ensuring care for all ages, including early childhood education and care;

-to ensure that the strategy includes measures for the physical and mental health of carers, help to avoid poverty of the family, enable work-life balance for both men and women and protect the rights of all family members;

-to ensure that family carers are not once again “Forgotten” as was the case during the first COVID-19 lockdowns, and often still today;

-to ensure that the actions under the European Care Strategy, are fully linked to the full transposition and implementation the EU Work-Life Balance Directive.

It is clear that if Europe and its Member States want to be true to their founding values, they must put at their centre the health, safety and well-being of persons in the most vulnerable situations, including persons with disabilities and their families, starting from those living in institutions and with higher support needs.

We call on President von der Leyen to fully take into account the family dimension of care in designing this new EU strategy –  we must stop relying on family solidarity to fill the gaps in State support and obligations, and develop strong public measures for social, disability and child rights.



[1] See for instance MEP Frances Fitzgerald’report on “the gender perspective in the COVID-19 crisis and post-crisis period” (2021) , MEP Maria Noichl’s report on “the EU Strategy for Gender Equality” (2021), as well a parliamentary question of MEPs Frances Fitzgerald and Dennis Radtke on “Holistic EU action in the field of care, including childcare, care for elderly people and persons with disabilities – towards a European Care Strategy” (2020)

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