On 19 June Employment and Social Affairs ministers endorsed the “Joint Report on adequate social protection for long-term care needs in an ageing society” prepared by the Commission and the Social Protection Committee (an expert group of representatives of Member States’ public administrations dealing with social protection).
The aim of this report is:
• to reiterate the case for social protection against the risk of long-term care (LTC) needs;
• to identify existing evidence about possible ways to contain and address present and future demands;
• to identify where there is lack of knowledge and need for further evidence;
• to give examples of good practices around the EU that could be considered also in other Member States;
• to suggest to the SPC where policy action could be taken to increase EU support to the efforts of Member States.
The report gives an overview of LTC provision across Member States and who the carers are, before examining whether there is adequate social protection for LTC. It examines how Member States can organise adequate provision for long-term care needs in a sustainable way, despite the ageing of the population. The report outlines the need for Member States to move to a “proactive” policy approach in order to prevent the loss of autonomy for individuals, which would in turn reduce care demand. It also seeks to boost efficient, cost-effective care at home and in residential institutions. The Commission stated“Economically, it makes sense for Member States to decrease the risk of dependency on long term care and to ensure adequate access to affordable quality care, as well as support to informal carers”.
The document starts with key messages which include the following points that are addressed in more detail in the report. There is an ever-widening gap between need and supply of LTC and social protection for LTC is needed for equity and efficiency. Social care is under resourced which means that the burden shifts to the individual and their relatives, which has negative consequences for them and for the labour market. The importance of supporting informal carers and “reinforcing” the LTC work force are key messages. In terms of innovation and proactive approaches, more focus needs to be put on healthy lifestyles, prevention, rehabilitation and re-enablement and early detection. There is much more scope for mutual learning and cooperation on research and development to better understand what works, including regarding technological solutions. The importance of the integration of social and health care (a key concern for Eurodiaconia members) is also stressed.
Annex 1 suggests areas for further work: better data gathering and sharing; a methodology for estimating costs of LTC and measures to prevent dependency, a network to develop and spread expertise in assessing the cost-effectiveness of various ways of tackling long-term care needs, promotion of more age-friendly environments, including by adapting the WHO guide to age-friendly cities to the European context, encouraging a systematic and integrated approach to implementing strategies for the secondary and tertiary prevention of frailty and finally cooperation with the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to promote greater respect for the human rights of people in long-term care.
Annex 2 contains country profiles for each Member State; 4-8 pages summarising: demographic background, current long-term care provision, carers, policy and recent developments and background statistics. The Eurodiaconia secretariat is interested to know if these descriptions are accurate – members are encouraged to read their country profile and give feedback to the secretariat. The report will be discussed at the upcoming Healthy Ageing and Long-term Care Network in September.