A call for the EU Parliament to investigate the tragic impact of COVID-19 on long-term care across the European Union


Brussels, Belgium – 1 July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had dire consequences on long-term and residential care facilities across Europe. In the light of recent, dramatic developments, trade unions and organisations representing care service users are calling on the European Parliament to launch an investigation into the failures in managing the crisis in this sector.

The refusal of several Member States to prioritise the outbreak of the pandemic in long-term and other care facilities has left workers and users without the necessary protective equipment and safety protocols, and contributed to thousands of preventable deaths and infections. The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), AGE Platform Europe, and the European Disability Forum (EDF) have sent a letter to the European Parliament highlighting the urgent need for an inquiry into this situation, in order to understand the causes, find solutions and prevent it happening again.

According to the World Health Organisation, over 40% of total confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Europe have occurred in long-term care facilities, and in some countries, this is closer to 60%. However, this is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg: many countries have failed to include deaths in care services in official COVID-19 statistics. The appalling stories that are emerging from care facilities draw an extremely worrying picture of both long-standing and contextual failures, revealing a serious lack of preparedness as well as a poor and delayed management of the outbreak. According to the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, the human rights of older persons, people with disability and others in care may have been violated.

The pandemic has laid bare the pre-existing problems of understaffing, precarious conditions and poor recognition of the work done in care services, mostly by women. Many of our affiliates in old age care services have encountered serious and worrying deficiencies in the management of the emergency, and a lack of protocols and personal protective equipment. Staff working in care and support services feel as if they, and the people they care for and support, are at the bottom of the list for PPE.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary

“Europe’s long-term care systems have long been insufficient. The dignity of older people needing them has been constantly threatened and no one should be surprised that such tragic situations occurred. We urgently need a shift towards person-centred, quality and comprehensive services that truly realise human rights. Society and policymakers need to start valuing care for older people as an essential service and to recognise those who work in the sector, so that such a tragedy never happens again”.

Maciej Kucharczyk, Secretary-General of AGE Platform Europe

Political institutions need to address these failures: workers and users of care and support services are not second class citizens and it is imperative that an official European inquiry is launched into what has happened in care services and what lessons need to be learnt for the future. We owe it to those receiving care and to workers infected, as well as to the victims, to their families and to everyone in Europe.

– END –

For more information:

> The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) organises more than 3 million workers in health and social services.

Press contact: Tuscany Bell, tbell@epsu.org

> AGE Platform Europe is the European network of organisations advocating for the rights of older people.

Press contact: Anne Mélard, anne.melard@age-platform.eu

> The European Disability Forum (EDF) is the umbrella organisation representing 100 million persons with disabilities in Europe.

Press contact: André Félix, andre.felix@edf-feph.org

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