Council Recommendation on access to affordable high-quality long-term care must not be watered down

©CanStockPhoto obencem Giving helping hands for elderly people

(25 November 2022) The European Commission’s publication of the European Care Strategy on 7th September came at a crucial time. Across Europe, care services are in crisis. There is a desperate need for increased funding and structural change. The European Council must not water down the measures in the proposed Council Recommendations.

The proposed Council Recommendation put forward by the Commission on access to affordable high-quality long-term care included a recommendation to appoint national coordinators to monitor and implement the strategy and act as a contact point at EU level. It also recommended that Member States submit national action plans within 12 months. Whilst a Council Recommendation falls short of a legally binding instrument, the proposal for national action plans and national coordinators would have ensured measures being taken at national level.

Recent documents now show that the Council is recommending national coordinators or an ‘appropriate coordination mechanism’, and removing the recommendation for national action plans. Instead, they ask member states to communicate a ‘set of measures’ to the Commission within 18 months. The language of the recommendation has also been watered down – instead of saying that Member States ‘should’ it now says that Member States ‘are recommended to’. This suggests the implementation of the strategy is optional and undermines the urgency of the care crisis and the need for real concrete measures.

The EU care strategy and the long-term care recomendation recognise that low pay, poor working conditions and low coverage by collective agreements are problematic. This needs to be addressed in national strategies in dialogue with the trade unions. Making this optional perpetuates the bad situation for the mostly female work force.

Other recent changes to the text are more positive. For example, the recognition that strong public networks of long-term care service providers, with adequate human and financial resources, can contribute to improving access to long-term care services. Whilst acknowledging the positive additions, EPSU calls on the Council not to water down the Council Recommendation.

The Proposal by the European Commission to the Council (published in September) can be found here