Challenges in the long-term care sector must be addressed in the EU Care strategy

©CanStockPhoto obencem Giving helping hands for elderly people

(On the 16 November EPSU representatives  participated at the conference   Employment challenges and opportunities in the social care sector:  the case of long-term care organized by Eurodiaconia in cooperation with Social Services Europe.

The problems in recruitment, retention and shortages of staff in the long term care sector are well known to policy makers . It is time for the EU to act to achieve quality, affordable care.  Member States should aim  to increase wages, training and retention of the workers to make the sector attractive and allow better opportunities in the long-term care sector.  Once and for all, these policies must include care workers, who for too long have been neglected by the COVID-19 measures.

Participants delivered similar experiences from Austria, Slovakia and France - due to lack of staff, care workers are not able to provide quality services because of understaffing. This understaffing is associated with irregular working hours, high workloads, high level of strain and low levels of income. This is why EPSU is calling for safe staffing level (adequate, needs based staffing level) also in the long term care sector.

Care workers are constantly facing the consequences of underinvestment and a lack of a long-term strategy. The number of long term care workers leaving the sector after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to increase. For instance  in Austria, the Pflegereform has been delayed due to the pandemic, and many workers left the sector.

A representative of the EU Commission confirmed that the EU Care Strategy will be presented at the end of the 2022 and will focus on long term and also child care.

Adam Rogalewski, EPSU Policy Officer for Health and Social Services, presented EPSU’s recommendations and report Resilience of the Long Term Care Sector: early key lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, which underlines the fact that the problems of the long term care sector retention have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Those include commercialisation, lack of investment, precarious working conditions  or lack of protection from Occupational, Health and Safety (OSH) risk factors which resulted in many workers leaving or considering to leave the sector. Already in 2019 to 2020 more than 400 000 workers left the residential care sector.   

The participants agreed that governments  must invest in long-term care  and in public services. The European Union should prepare a clear care strategy to address  staffing shortages and overall improve the quality of sector. This is also the requirement of the 18 Principals of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Finally,  none should make a profit from the pandemic and long term care sector as all public services should be excluded from any possible austerity measures following the pandemic.