In view of the coronavirus pandemic, the focus has once more shifted to the demands for new measures for the reconciliation of care and work and for the transformation of the care system. For this, the European Commission presented the European Care Strategy on 7 September 2022.
Its goal is to ensure quality, affordable and accessible care services across the European Union and improve the situation for both care receivers and the people caring for them, professionally or informally. Therefore, the strategy provides measures to the European Member States, in particular to meet the right of access to affordable and quality long-term care as set out in principle 18 of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
In January 2021, the European Commission published the Green Paper on Ageing: Fostering solidarity and responsibility between generations in order to discuss the challenges and opportunities of demographic change in Europe and to work on them politically. The Green Paper focuses, among other things, on measures for a healthy and active ageing, lifelong learning and financial security in the post-professional phase.
- Carer's allowance: paying family caregivers for care
- Reconciliation of Elderly Care and Work
- Social aspects of the UN Agenda 2030
- Counselling services for (working) family carers in Austria and Switzerland
- Family Carers
- Cross-border cooperation to safeguard services of general interest
- Volunteering in Hospice and Palliative Care
- Migration of Care Workers from the Visegrád-States
Carer's allowance: paying family caregivers for care
Internal research by the Observatory (not published) from November 2022 dealt with the so-called carer's allowance. This is a financial benefit for family caregivers, which in theory is based on a 20- to 40-hours week on basis of the minimum wage. In contrast, the wage replacement benefit for family caregivers is lower as a financial benefit, as it is based on the parental allowance and can comprise 65 to 100 per cent of the previous year’s net salary (DIW Berlin 2022: 4).
The research shows that the carer’s allowance is partially offered in three European countries: Since 2019 family caregivers in Austria in the canton of Burgenland can be employed in the so-called Burgenland-Modell after a basic training course and receive a carer’s allowance. In Denmark, people who care for a seriously ill, dying or disabled relative can receive a carer‘s allowance. The amount depends on various factors and is paid out by the municipality where the care takes place. In Switzerland, family carers can be employed by the Caritas in the cantons of Luzern and Zug. From 2023 onwards, an expansion to further cantons is envisaged. With Solicare this model already exists in 16 other cantons. In both Swiss models, the family carers are regularly visited by qualified nursing professionals for quality assurance. In addition, the residence of the family member providing care must be in one of the approved cantons. In Germany, the social association VdK has dealt with this topic in a study. However, according to the coalition agreement of the federal government, a wage replacement benefit for family carers in case of care-related time off is planned.
Counselling services for (working) family carers in Austria and SwitzerlandIn Austria and Switzerland, the largest proportion of people in need of care are supported and cared for at home by (caring) relatives – an often exhausting task that has increased in intensity due to the coronavirus pandemic and at times many closed support services. Many family carers find it difficult to distance themselves or ask for help when they are overwhelmed by the situation. Therefore, good counselling structures are needed to support caring relatives in a preventive way, but also in an overload situation, to organise their own lives – also alongside employment and childcare – and to organise informal care well.
An overview by the Observatory produced in July 2021 (not published) shows that there are a variety of information and counselling services for family carers in both countries. Counselling structures that support reconciliation can be found increasingly in Switzerland. One explanation for this could be that the need is higher in Switzerland, as the proportion of working carers is considerably higher than in Austria. However, the majority of counselling services for family carers focus on the care (situation), disability or illness as the trigger for the need for counselling.
Social aspects of the UN Agenda 2030Elderly people are explicitly mentioned in seven of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the sense of the commitment "leave no one behind". This is shown by brief research of the Observatory on the social aspects of the UN Agenda 2030 in March 2021. However, within the national sustainability strategies of the EU Member States for the implementation of the UN Agenda 2030, concrete targets and indicators in the field of policies for elderly people are mostly missing. In some cases, data systems are used for policy decisions that exclude people outside the age group 15-64. Among other reasons, this is due to a poor data situation regarding older and very old people.
Civil society organisations and older people's interest groups appeal: Sustainable development should also be shaped in the context of population ageing and demographic change, and elderly people, in particular, should be given greater attention in all areas. An important organisation in this field is the Stakeholder Group on Ageing (SGA). It brings together global and national stakeholders for elderly people and is part of the "Major Groups and Other Stakeholders" that accompany the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda.
Reconciliation of Elderly Care and Work
More and more people are working and at the same time looking after children or relatives in need of care. How do policies support these people to handle this double burden? The Observatory takes up this question and conducts comprehensive research on the issue.
Cross-border cooperation to safeguard services of general interest
As a result of the effects of demographic change, the safeguarding of services of general interest faces challenges in many German regions. Local authorities are tasked with developing solutions to these challenges and with adapting local structures to current and future circumstances. Cross-border cooperation is one way of tackling these challenges together with municipalities and regions in neighbouring countries. The Observatory examines the opportunities, potential disadvantages, forms, obstacles and success factors of cross-border cooperation for border regions.
Volunteering in Hospice and Palliative CareDemographic developments in Europe pose challenges to hospice and palliative care, especially with regards to an increasing number of people to be accompanied. Volunteering, therefore, plays an important role in hospice and palliative care. Against this background, a working paper discusses i.a. the following questions: What does the organisation and coordination of volunteering in hospice and palliative care in France and Poland look like? What are the tasks of volunteers? How are they trained? And how can volunteers be recruited and tied to their volunteering work in the future?
80 percent of care in Europe is provided by informal caregivers. Family carers are especially reliant on information and counselling on care issues. Furthermore, they should have access to information about their rights as carers advice and support for family carers can positively contribute to their own health and can prevent them from becoming overburdened. The expertise “Young Carers – Support measures in Austria, the United Kingdom and Ireland” shows furthermore that many children and adolescents are caregivers who would be highly benefited from support and advice.