(14 July 2021) On 12-13 July the European Commission organised a conference to debate the findings of two major reports on Long-Term Care and Pension Adequacy in an Ageing Society.
EPSU’s DGS Penny Clarke took part in the panel debate on quality of long-term care and link with workforce issues. She stressed that COVID-19 had put social care workers in the spotlight but that the lessons still had to be learnt from the underlying pre-COVID problems in the sector, stemming from austerity measures, underfunding, precarious employment and staff shortages, as illustrated in recent report.
If Europe’s growing need for care workers is to be met, funding as well as social dialogue and collective bargaining is needed to improve low wages, secure training and career progression, strengthen health & safety at work, and tackle atypical work. From the conference debate there appears to be a growing consensus around the need to improve the access and affordability of quality long-term care by integrating the risks of needing long-term care into national social protection systems. Such a move in all countries would support an integrated approach to health and social care and harness resources more fairly – and efficiently. Solidarity-based funding of social protection is key to deliver on the right to care for everyone. Existing international instruments on social protection from the ILO and Council of Europe do not adequately address long-term care.
There should not be a trade off between the rights of care workers and care receivers, as the fundamental rights for both need to be prioritised. As the conference debate highlighted, investment in care services is also important to advance gender equality. EPSU welcomes that the 2021 Long-term Care Report does make clear recommendations to integrate the risks of care into social protection systems, building on the previous 2014 report.
Getting broad public support to fund LTC care services is easier when care services are developed first and foremost as public goods, with everyone contributing and benefiting according to needs and abilities. In this way social justice is in-built into the system.
For the Commission, the design of social protection schemes remains very much in Member States own hands. However if the EU and Member States are serious about implementing the EPSR principle on the right to long-term care (principle 18) then an EU approach is needed to speed up and underpin the necessary reforms.