A Care Strategy for caregivers and care receivers by the EU

During the conference “From Knowledge to Action – the role of carers is changing?” in Oslo on March 16 Stecy Yghemonos held the presentation “A European Care Strategy for caregivers and care receivers”.

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He is Director of Eurocarers and has extensive experience of business development, and project design and management, and has worked in the social and health fields for more than 13 years. He has played a leading role in international ventures aiming to promote and defend important rights such as universal and equitable access to health, the achievement of Millennium Development Goals press freedom, children’s rights and participative democracy.

Man smiling
Stecy Yghemonos held the presentation “A European Care Strategy for caregivers and care receivers”. Photo: Eurocarers

Eurocarers, the European Association Working for Carers, is an international non-profit organisation located in Brussels. The Association pursues charitable, scientific, educational and advocacy purposes and is aimed at promoting and defending the rights relating to the representation and social inclusion of carers. The Association endeavours to enhance the recognition of informal care and to represent and act on behalf of the carers and ex-carers (as well as their organisations), whatever may be their age and the specific needs of the person receiving care. Its main objectives include: (1) The exchange, collection and diffusion of information, expertise, good practices and innovations, and (2) To contribute to the development of policies at the national and European level on the basis of evidence-based research. The Association comprises carer organisations as well as research and development bodies with an interest in carers.

A framework for policy reforms

In his presentation, Director Yghemonos presented and commented on the EU strategy for care givers and care receivers. The European Commission has presented the European Care Strategy to ensure quality, affordable and accessible care services across the European Union and improve the situation for both care receivers and the people caring for them, professionally or informally.

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Eurocarers pursue charitable, scientific, educational and advocacy purposes and is aimed at promoting and defending the rights relating to the representation and social inclusion of carers. Photo: illustration image

The EU Care Strategy is designed as a framework for policy reforms aimed at improving the provision of long-term care (LTC) in the EU. Its main features include:

  • The recognition of the importance of LTC: The strategy reiterates that care is an integral part of social Europe, a crucial element of the welfare state and a fundamental right for all EU citizens throughout the life course.
  • A focus on person-centred care: The strategy underlines the need for care services that are focused on the actual needs and preferences of the individual, rather than the needs of the system.
  • Promotion of accessible quality care: The strategy seeks to improve accessibility via the provision of care at atypical hours, having care facilities at reasonable distance, cutting red tape where possible, etc. As for the quality of care, the Strategy calls for the development of common standards, guidelines and certification schemes.
  • Integrated care: The strategy underscores the need for a better integration of health and social care services to adopt a more holistic approach to care.
  • Enhancing the LTC workforce: The strategy recognises the need for a skilled workforce to provide high-quality LTC and aims to support the development of this workforce (via better training and working conditions).
  • Support for informal carers: The strategy also acknowledges the central role played by informal carers in the provision of LTC and calls on Member States to recognise their work and provide them with support.
  • Promotion of innovation: finally, the Strategy encourages the development of innovative models of care to meet the evolving needs of the population.

New developments in the strategy

What are the new elements in this strategy, and why are these elements added to the strategy?

“It took a pretty long time for the European Commission to convince Member States about the need and added value of an EU initiative on LTC. Care is indeed a topic that does not form part of the EU mandate per say. So, the way we see it, the existence of the Strategy is already an achievement in itself. When it comes to the Strategy’s content, the Commission’s approach is ambitious and comprehensive. The attention to resilience and preparedness, integration, sustainability, innovation, personalisation and the gender dimension of care is very much welcome. It is very clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for the development of the Strategy. The pandemic has highlighted the flaws and limitations of our existing care systems. By addressing these issues, the EU Care Strategy therefore aims to promote more sustainable, equitable and high-quality care services for all EU citizens,” answers Yghemonos.

Is the EU care strategy only recommendations or is it mandatory for member countries?

“The EU has limited competence in the field of social policy (and long-term care). Consequently, the EU Care Strategy is not mandatory for Member States as the provision of LTC falls within their competence. Having said that, the Strategy does provide guidance and recommendations to Member States on how to improve the provision of LTC services and encourages them to work together to create a more coordinated and comprehensive approach. More importantly, the EU can provide funding and support for initiatives that aim to improve the provision of LTC services and can therefore encourage Member States to adopt best practices and share knowledge and expertise. So, the Strategy is not legally binding, but it still is a significant step forward in EU policymaking on LTC,” concludes Yghemonos.

Text: Eigil Kloster Osmundsen

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