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European Parliament Interest Group on Carers

Meeting of the European Parliament Informal Carers Interest Group "Looking back and looking ahead: celebrating its 10th anniversary"

Date: 7 November 2017, from 18:00 to 20:00 

Venue: European Parliament

Room: ASP 1E1

During its 10 years of activity, the Interest Group has made an active contribution towards the inclusion of informal carers and their issues in EU policy development. Examples include the increased attention for informal carers in the current discussions on work-life balance, on the development of integrated community-based long term care services (recognising the role and contribution of carers) and the need to take better account of carers in the future of social protection systems.
However, the work of the Group is by no means completed. There are many EU policy domains which - directly or indirectly - impact on carers and which take no or insufficient account of carers yet.
The aims of the meeting therefore were:
to celebrate the first ten years of activity of the Interest Group;
to thank all those that have supported the work of the Group, including regular participants;
to reflect on what has been achieved (look back) and what still needs to be achieved (look ahead);
to discuss practical plans to strengthen the work of the Group and its policy focus;
to increase awareness of the activities and existence of the Interest Group in the European Parliament and increase its support base. 

The draft agenda is available here


Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Carers on "The new European Pillar of Social Rights" - Brussels, 11 April 2017

Last March, the European Commission put forward a first outline of what should become the European Pillar of Social Rights. This will identify a number of essential principles common to Euro-area Member States, focusing on their needs and challenges in the field of employment and social policies.  
Once in place, the Pillar should become the reference framework to screen the employment and social performance of participating Member States, to drive reforms at national level and, more specifically, to serve as a compass for the renewed process of convergence within the Euro area. 

A preliminary outline of the European Pillar of Social Rights was the subject of a EU stakeholder consultation. This contained three main categories in the field of employment and social policies, subdivided in a number of policy domains:

•    Equal opportunities and access to the labor market: skills development, life-long learning and active support for employment. 
•    Fair working conditions: to establish an adequate and reliable balance of rights and obligations between workers and employers. 
•    Adequate and sustainable social protection: access to health, social protection benefits and high quality services, including childcare, healthcare and long-term care.

Given the importance of this initiative, the April meeting was aimed to:

•    Inform participants of the content of the proposed European Pillar of Social Rights;
•    Explore how the Pillar could best support carers and their needs and issues:
•    Explore the synergies between the various health and social stakeholders are EU level.

Presentation - Perspective on the establishment of a European Pillar of Social Rights - Chloe Wright, Eurocarers 

Presentation - Optimising the European Pillar of Social Rights for people with dementia and their carers - Vanessa Challinor, Alzheimer Europe

The Report of the Meeting is available here

Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Carers on "Work-life balance: A new EU initiative" - Brussels, 15 June 2016

On 15 June 2016, a meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Carers took place. It addressed the new Commission initiative to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families. 

The main rationale for this initiative is the fact that women tend to work less hours in paid employment and spend more time in fulfilling unpaid care responsibilities. It will address the low labour market participation of women by adapting the current EU legal and policy framework to today's labour market to allow for parents with children or with dependent relatives to better balance caring and professional responsibilities.
The initiative, aiming at increasing the participation of women in the labour market through better work-life reconciliation, appropriate protection and strengthened gender equality will therefore contribute to the priority of the Commission on growth and jobs. The initiative specifically addresses carers and underlines that  there is  a ‘strong economic case for supporting the participation of women-carers in the labour market, both by protective measures and work-life balance policies: they can help to boost employment, contribute to resolve emerging labour market shortages and address fiscal challenges arising from demographic ageing without imposing any specific preference on parents and those caring for depending relatives for organising their family life. They also contribute to reducing the risk of poverty and social exclusion of people with caring responsibilities’.  The initiative also links in well with the European Semester Process.

Given the relevance of this initiative, the meeting served to:

•    Inform participants of the new work/life balance initiative and its state of play;
•    discuss how this initiative could best address carers and their work/life balance needs, in order to ensure that it will reflect and address their issues in the most appropriate and helpful way.

Presentation - The need for an EU inititiative to facilitate work/life balance - Robert Anderson, Eurofound.

The Report of the meeting is available here

Joint Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Carers and the Interest Group on Mental Health, Well-being and Brain Disorders - Brussels, 12 January 2016

On 12 January 2016, a Joint Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Carers and the Interest Group on Mental Health, Well-being and Brain Disorders has been held in the European Parliament, in Brussels.

The meeting aimed to address the issues faced by carers providing care to people affected by mental health disorders.

Basis for the meeting was EUFAMI’s recent ’Caring4carers’ survey on this topic, carried out by LUCAS, the Centre for Care Research and Consultancy of the University of Leuven. This survey, which has a strong focus on the experiences of carers for persons with severe mental illness, clearly demonstrates the areas where these need support.

Background to the survey is the fact that recent reforms in mental health care are seeing a gradual move away from hospital-based to community care; therefore the demands on family carers has increased. Over the past decades there has been some scientific survey-based research data documenting the carer burden. However, the research is limited, not recent and often based on single country examples. ‘Caring 4carers’ was specifically designed to address this evidence gap and assess the experiences of family carers in caring for a relative with severe mental illness, from an international perspective.

The joint Interest Group meeting served to:

  • Inform participants of the outcome of the EUFAMI survey;
  • Hear about the experiences of carers;
  • Discuss what the EU level can do to ensure more awareness of this topic and more policy attention, both in existing initiatives as well as in future actions.

Please find the report of the Meeting here.

Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Carers on "Carers in the European Semester Process" - Brussels, 20 October 2015

Long-term care is increasingly becoming an important issue on the Member States’ health and social policy agendas.

This is one of the striking findings of last summer’s Social Protection Committee report addressing long term care: even though Long-Term Care is an area in which diversity amongst member states is greatest, all member states face the same challenges - a growing demand, declining supply of potential (professional and informal) carers, the quality challenge and the financing challenge. In our opinion, the fact that these challenges are consistent across all member states suggests that there is at the least a possibility of greater convergence over the coming years. Long term care involves the provision of both formal (paid) care as well as informal (unpaid care and the focus of our meeting will be mainly on informal care provision. While the EU cannot legislate in this area, it can facilitate discussion and exchange of good practice and experience and the area of long term care seems to lend itself well for this type of informal cooperation. 

Since 2011, the European Commission's country-specific recommendations for economic reforms in member states – as part of the European Semester process - are increasingly targeting health and long-term care systems, with financial sustainability as the key words. Therefore, the European Semester Process could potentially function as a helpful tool to ensure an EU-level as well as national focus on long term care, and, more specifically, on the indispensable role and contribution of carers to the long-term care provision. Therefore, the Co-chairs of the Interest Group on Carers and Eurocarers wanted  to explore how this Process can be strengthened in terms of its focus on long term care and discuss what could be done in practice to facilitate this.   

The meeting served to:
•    Inform participants  the European Semester Process and its current focus on health and long term care;
•    Discuss how this Process could have a stronger focus on carers as well as identify the measures and requirements to achieve this.

Presentation - Promoting the needs and added value of informal carers at EU level - Harnessing the potential of the EU Semester, Stecy Yghemonos, Eurocarers Executive Director

Please find the Report of the Meeting here

Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Carers on "Family vs. state responsibility in long-term care provision - The feasibility of one model" - Brussels, 6 May 2015

The EP Interest Group on Carers and Eurocarers met on the 6th May and addressed family vs. state responsibility for long-term care across the EU.

Despite the huge variety of approaches, challenges and levels of progress, all Member States are engaged in political discussions on this topic. While the EU cannot legislate in this area, it can facilitate discussion and exchange of good practice and experience and the area of long term care seems to lend itself well for this type of informal cooperation.

A comprehensive meeting report is available here.

Meeting of the EP Interest Group on Carers and EU action in the field of social exclusion - Brussels, 4 February 2015

Since 2009, the number of people living in poverty and social exclusion has increased by 10 million in the EU, now amounting to over 124 million, or one in four people. Unpaid carers are disproportionally affected by poverty and social exclusion. Disability, the impact of reducing employment to care, higher utility and household costs and discriminatory or altogether missing social security protection for unpaid carers indeed all contribute to a faster cycle of financial and social poverty. At the same time, demographic challenges increase demand for informal care and economic policy in many European nations reduces public service provision. These trends place unpaid carers in a vicious and deepening cycle of poverty. 

The meeting provided an opportunity to showcase the specific example of Scotland but evidence is available to demonstrate the negative financial impact of caring in most EU member states. The EU context for work was also depicted with relevant entry points in the EU2020 Strategy, Social OMC, Social Investment Package and Structural Funds. The potential offered by a call for a Carers Leave Directive as well as by an own Initiative report on long term care/carers (both supported by participating MEPs) was welcomed by participants.

The conclusions of the meeting underlined the need to explore preventive measures and to bear in mind the three key trends – i.e. increasing care demand, decreasing care supply and limited budget – which set the context for progress.

To read a summary report of this meeting, please click here.

Presentation - Carers and social exclusion, The Coalition of Carers in Scotland, C. Cairns

Presentation - Carers in EU initiatives on poverty and social inclusion, EC, R. Jacob/S. Matzke

First formal meeting of the EP Interest Group on Carers in the new EP - Brussels, 15 October 2014

On 15th October 2014, the first formal meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Carers in the new Parliament has taken place.

The main aim has been to discuss the Social Protection Committee report ‘Adequate social protection for long-term care needs in an ageing society’ and to explore the possibilities for further action and concrete policy initiatives in the field.

The report of the meeting is available here.

Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Carers on work/life balance - Brussels, 9 April 2014

The first part of the meeting addressed the EU Carers Strategy campaign, which was launched by the Interest Group and Eurocarers in October 2013. Marian Harkin, one of the co-chairs of the Interest Group, underlined the importance of an EU-level strategy, as there many overarching issues which are shared by all Member States such as:

  • The impact of caring on the physical and emotional well-being;
  • The risk of poverty, due to inadequate pension contributions as a result of leaving or reducing paid employment in order to care – carers risk being the next generation of poor older people;
  • The need to integrate formal and informal care provision, as a basis for sustainable care systems.

The second part of the meeting focused on carers and work/life balance.

To access the Meeting report, click here.