The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken public debates across the European Union. As most people seem to accept that “business as usual” is no longer an option, the need for a new impulse in the way care for older people is conceived, organized and delivered seems to be felt across our continent. But will this new political impulse last? And where will it lead us, if anywhere?
Ahead of the 2021 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, on 15 June, we believe this is a right momentum to go through our ongoing work on care as we fight for a Europe of dignity and equality for all ages.
AGE members are actively involved
AGE members have been very active monitoring recent reforms in care systems. This is the case of PVÖ in Austria, Vlaamse Ouderenraad in Belgium, VdK in Germany or ZDUS in Slovenia, who have all pointed out the inadequate funding of care and the need for additional resources.
Members are also actively putting forward a new vision for care. Examples of this work include BAGSO in Germany, which has published a position paper calling for better access to home care and pointing to the actions needed to make it happen; presidents of CEOMA and UDP in Spain supported a declaration asking for a new long-term care model; CFR in France has proposed the development of home and intermediary forms of care in the country; and KBO-PCOB in the Netherlands has joined a coalition to put forward ten key principles for a “future-proof” care system. This is to list only a few of the many actions AGE members are taking across Europe.
At EU level, we also want to get the ball rolling and advance towards a better future for older people with care and support needs. This year, care is one of AGE’s key priorities, and we are working to make sure we deliver on it.
Rethinking Care to lead change
Our action is stronger when we all join forces and work collectively. To take full advantage of all the resources of our network, and build on our share values, we launched on 3rd June a series of 4 workshops to rethink care. Our goal is to revise our work on care, share our views and imagine together a new vision of care.
The first workshop identified the opportunities and threats in care for older people, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of current care systems. AGE members also reflected on how to improve care policies and services.
On this basis, the next workshops will:
- Reflect on a new vision for care – 29 June
- Identify a pathway – what is needed to achieve change – 14 September
- And draw a strategy to materialize our vision – 5 October
These workshops with AGE members will inform AGE’s renewed narrative around care. We will deliver a policy paper summing up our conclusions, which we will share with our wider audiences and stakeholders. And we will also produce a small toolkit for all our members to get inspiration from the outcomes of our process.
Cooperating with experts
For the past year, we have been coordinating a European Expert Group on a new long-term care model. Co-funded by the Biscay provincial government (Basque Country, Spain), this group of experts is working on a report to identify the changes needed in care systems in Europe. While the report will reflect on the context of Biscay, it will include general orientations that can be applied across the continent.
The group includes six leading experts:
- Sarah Harper, Oxford University, United Kingdom (chair)
- Liesbeth De Donder, VUB – Free University of Brussels, Belgium
- Anne Hendry, International Foundation for Integrated Care (IFIC), United Kingdom
- Stefania Ilinca, Global Brain Health Institute, Trinity College Ireland, and European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Ireland / Romania
- Giovanni Lamura, INRCA-IRCSS – National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing, Italy
- Tine Rostgaard, Stockholm University, Sweden / Denmark
Experts are working to draft the final report and have it ready by the end of 2021 or beginning of next year. This will be an important piece to guide the development of care policies in the coming years. We will be establishing links with the Rethinking Care process to exploit complementarities and ensure the coherence of our messages.
Seizing the momentum at EU level
Our reflection on care runs in parallel with very significant developments at European level in the areas of care and ageing. These include:
- the Green Paper on Ageing and our call for an Age Equality Strategy
In this framework, we have called for better access to care for older people. We are at present looking forward to the follow-up that the European Union will give to the consultation process.
- the recently released Action Plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights
This Plan will play a key role in EU’s next steps in care. In 2022, the European Commission will be putting forward a policy initiative in the field of care, and we will be actively influencing Commission’s plans. This includes AGE’s contribution to an ongoing study on the options the EU has in delivering such initiative. 2022 will be a key year on this front.
- the recent release of the 2021-2030 EU Disability Rights Strategy
This strategy provides the opportunity for AGE to further explore the intersection between ageing and disability. This includes closer cooperation with the European Disability Forum (EDF) regarding access to care and support. In particular, we will examine how the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) can better apply in the field of care for older people. We will seek to close the gap between ageing and disability and exploit all the benefits that an intersectional approach can bring to older people with care and support needs.
- the SPC report on long-term care
The European Commission and the Social Protection Committee (SPC) are about to launch a new report on long-term care. This will offer an updated picture of care policies across the EU. AGE contributed to a critical assessment of the report led by the Social Platform, which will be included in the report.
Planning now for the future
All this work will help us imagine and build a better future for older people in need of care. A future where care is not an end in itself but the means to remain equally and fully integrated in society. Exciting months ahead for AGE and our members!
For more information, you may contact Borja Arrue, email@example.com, Policy Officer responsible for care.