What is the European Care Strategy?
The European Care Strategy is a set of concrete actions to improve the situation for carers and care receivers. It consists of 3 different documents:
- A Communication – a policy document outlining actions to improve care in the EU.
- Two proposals for Council Recommendations: one on the revision of the Barcelona targets on early childhood education and care, and the second on access to affordable, high-quality long-term care.
The Strategy acts in 4 areas:
- High-quality, affordable and accessible care services;
- Increasing access to early childhood education and care;
- timely, comprehensive and affordable long-term care, with a better offer, higher standards and support for informal carers;
- Fair working conditions and training for care staff, including tackling gender stereotypes.
The Disability perspective
The European Care Strategy clearly takes persons with disabilities into account. It shows a solid understanding of the most pressing issues facing the sector and, most importantly, facing recipients of care and support services.
We are happy to see the focus placed on community-based services, independent living and the transition away from institutional care.
Other positive points include:
- A clear understanding of the gender perspective when it comes to care provision;
- the issue of cost, which prevents many persons with disabilities from accessing support
- The acknowledgement of the crucial role that third-country nationals play in ensuring the strength and resilience of the care sector in the EU.
What needs to be improved
However, there are some crucial aspects that the Strategy could have emphasised further.
- Lack of binding measures – which means EU countries can easily ignore it;
- Not enough emphasis on the choice of services and on increasing their diversity;
- Measures for training workers are insufficient.
Lack of binding measures
The European Care Strategy suffers from a lack of binding or legislative measures. As a result, it is a Strategy that imposes very little on the countries. Instead, it relies on the individual Member States’ goodwill and motivation.
This means that those who will implement it well are likely to be those who are already investing in quality care services. Conversely, those most in need of improvements are likely to ignore the provisions within the Strategy.
The importance of choice
We believe the importance of choice is an underdeveloped aspect of the Strategy.
Persons with disabilities must be able to choose the type of support in a way that facilitates the life they choose to live – where, with whom and how they choose to live it. So says Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the EU ratified.
We believe the Strategy needs to be more ambitious to diversify the type of care services available. Services that are in high demand and allow people to live independently – such as personal assistance and in-home support – are in short supply. Due to this, people are forced into other, less personalised forms of care.
It should be a priority to increase their availability to help as many people as possible access this service.
We need to ensure that we have a care sector that is attractive and can retain care workers. We hope that EU countries will work on practical steps to achieve this.
More focus should have been placed on the training of care workers:
- on the human rights of care recipients;
- on how to play a role in facilitating the recipients’ freedom of choice.
Civil society organisations will monitor the implementation of this Strategy. As a first step, a webinar will take place on 9 September to discuss our initial reactions.
- The European Care Strategy
- Webinar “Introducing the EU Care Strategy – Webinar on Stakeholders’ Initial Reactions”
Haydn Hammersley – Senior Social Policy Officer