The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) calls on the EU and Member States to implement more concrete measures to support the health, housing and financial needs of the growing number people taking on long-term caregiving responsibilities of a family member.
The opinion's rapporteur, Pietro Vittorio Barbieri, said all measures should be taken jointly by policy-makers, employers (through social dialogue), and family caregivers and their representative organisations.
The first step is recognising the value of their work and giving them a say on the assistance they provide, he said. The second step is ensuring housing services and support to prevent isolation, marginalisation, and physical and mental overload. Clearly, if countries can guarantee certain services will be provided, it will take some of the load off family members.
Such measures include providing family caregivers with adequate health services, including preventive healthcare, along with training on how to look after their own health. Housing support and home services (in line with health and nursing needs) and psychological support for the caregiver and the family unit are also needed.
Financial support needed
The EESC also calls for Member States to consider alternative forms of remuneration, including financial aid, for those family carers who risk impoverishment when they are forced to give up paid employment or reduce their working hours.
Employers should also be encouraged to provide flexible working arrangements and fringe benefits beyond the minimum required under national rules for employees who provide ongoing care for relatives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has probably worsened the situation for many family caregivers, but not enough up-to-date information is available on the scale of the issue, hampering efforts to address it.
The EESC calls on Eurostat to update a 2018 survey of work and family life, and for Member States to establish a common definition of caregiving. In parallel, Member State policies should provide quality long-term assistance services for people with disabilities, enabling them to live independently.
Overall, this issue is of growing concern and will require more awareness. The EESC is calling for the establishment of a European Day to recognise family caregivers and encourage public policy support.