Towards a New Care Model for the Elderly: learning from the Covid-19 pandemic (own-initiative opinion - Gr III)

EESC opinion: Towards a New Care Model for the Elderly: learning from the Covid-19 pandemic (own-initiative opinion - Gr III)

Key points

On Care models, the EESC:

  • believes that care for dependent older people should be mainstreamed into EU policymaking in view of the demographic transition and be debated in the Conference on the Future of Europe.
  • proposes setting up a European Observatory for care for older people, which would collect data, compare good practices between different state models, identify structural weaknesses, provide technical support to facilitate the adoption of EU political guidelines.
  • welcomes the Commission's initiative to establish a new European Care Strategy. It calls for it to be implemented as soon as possible and to involve the European consultative institutions and European social dialogue at the various levels.
  • commits to set up an ad hoc group before the end of the current term, to implement various initiatives relating to care for older people, ageing and the challenge of people living longer.
  • believes the Member States need to establish or update existing laws on supporting and protecting older people's autonomy to deal with prevention, loss of autonomy and the self-determination of older people.
  • suggests that the Commission draw up proposals on anticipation, prevention and the loss of autonomy of older people to include them in the healthcare strategy and the forthcoming guidelines on independent living for older people under the European Disability Strategy.
  • proposes that the EU establish a standard definition to better define the concepts of dependence and the need to provide care for others as they lose their autonomy, taking into account the variety of approaches taken by the various countries and their freedom to choose how to design their social protection system

On Structures, the EESC:

  • believes that Deinstitutionalisation of older people in care homes needs to be supported by the provision of adequate community-based services, promoting dependent older people's autonomy, independence, ability to look after themselves and social relations. Social economy can play a key role in this transition. Shortcomings in care systems exposed by the pandemic need to be addressed through the relevant EU funds, namely the EU Structural and Cohesion Funds, the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the EU health programme (EU4Health).

On Resources, the EESC:

  • believes that sufficient public funding must be ensured within social security systems in line with existing demand and while ensuring high-quality services.
  • recommends that both the allocation of places at state-assisted care homes and the renewal of these public contracts be conditional on complying with staff ratio requirements and other criteria ensuring the best quality possible.
  • considers that a well-structured debate at various levels and between various actors is needed to address funding care for older people to which all have access.
  • proposes that measures be put in place to ensure adequate training for carers, with specialised, institutionalised training pathways being developed for care staff, and that an official certificate for basic skills be required in order to be able to work in social care services for older people. It also recommends using systems for recognising such qualifications between countries and that the European Social Fund earmark funding for the training of carers for older people.
  • believes that the issue of EU care workers and all related aspects, including the right to collective bargaining, should be incorporated into European social dialogue.
  • thinks that all stakeholders involved in caring for older people should make better use of innovations arising from digital technologies.

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.