The role of family members caring for people with disabilities and older persons: the explosion of the phenomenon during the pandemic - Related Opinions
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This opinion presents the EESC's contribution to the current discussion on the future of care and health across Europe and to the European Care Strategy. The Committee recommends setting common minimum standards to ensure that every one living in the EU has access to affordable, accessible and high-quality care, that there is proper investment in the care services and in health, that the health sector, care providers and health workers are properly recognised and valued, including through investment in skills, decent working conditions, and the creation of quality jobs.
This Own-initiative Opinion analyses the structural causes that have led to the elderly care systems in general and to the nursing homes in particular, to become some of the most contagious and lethal factors of this pandemic. To this end, the different systems that exist in EU Member States are compared to learn useful lessons.
In addition, the opinion calls for the need to address the demographic transition as one of the major challenges of the twenty-first century, alongside environmental and digital transitions.
The EESC welcomes the new EU Disability Rights Strategy, acknowledging that it is a clear step forward compared with the previous one. It is however concerned about the lack of binding measures and hard legislation implementing the Strategy.
Among other recommendations, the Committee regrets the lack of specific actions addressing the needs of women and girls with disabilities and calls for a specific flagship initiative in the second half of the period of the Strategy. It also calls for the full involvement and participation of organisations of persons with disabilities in the proposed Disability Platform. As regarding the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the EESC feels it should be strongly linked to the Disability Strategy and used to help persons with disabilities recovering from the pandemic.
Europe's population is getting older. While demand for homecare grows, exploitative conditions persist among "live-in" carer workers, who work in the least regulated informal and semi-formal segments of the sector. The EESC calls on the European Union to work closely with Member States to coordinate the supply and mobility of live-in care workers and respect their rights as part of an overall approach to improve this sector.
No EU institution has so far addressed the issues surrounding live-in care workers, a social group that is expanding as population ages in Europe. The EESC believes that their existence in the European labour market must be recognised and the quality of the services they deliver improved. They should be treated in a similar way to other care workers and enjoy similar protection. Financial support for care recipients also needs to be made available through adequate long-term and sustainable social investment.
With this opinion the EESC wants to highlight all forms of older peoples' participation in society. It recommends eliminating any barriers to their involvement and fostering their contribution. This means: increasing the offer of adapted learning for older people, namely on ICT, encouraging them to work until the retirement age and possibly beyond, provided that work environments and contractual arrangements meet their needs, valuing their role as volunteers, in particular as informal care givers, and recognising them as important consumers of goods and services.
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