On 15th April 2020, the European Association of Service providers for Persons with disabilities (EASPD) joined experts to highlight the huge concerns facing the millions of caregivers who have been forced to take-up increased care duties during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite flexible adaptations made by social care services. EASPD calls on the European Institutions to consider more carefully the needs of persons with disabilities, family caregivers and social care providers in the lifting of containment and economic recovery measures.
During a webinar, organised by EASPD, care providers and care givers came together to share how they can build their partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social care providers, many of whom are rooted in family organisations, from Finland, France, Albania and Greece presented the steps they have taken to continue to provide support to persons with disabilities and (family) caregivers, the latter being mostly women. Such steps include:
- providing accessible information;
- providing face-to-face support when necessary and with personal protective equipment;
- ensuring online care and support, including psychological support;
- helping with access to benefits & medical prescriptions;
- and connecting people and families with local authorities and healthcare providers.
Despite this important partnership between professionals and family care-givers, the experts still highlighted important concerns for many care-givers such as exhaustion and burnout, financial issues and poverty, contexts when family members fall ill, uncertainty around the future and general lack of recognition of family care-givers and the care needs of persons with disabilities.
Ms Kirsi Konola, Deputy CEO of the Service Foundation for People with an Intellectual Disability and Vice President of EASPD, states that “the rights of caregivers seem to be completely absent from the policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet it is they who are bearing much of the caring responsibility in Europe today, even more so than usual. Millions of persons with disabilities and caregivers need more and targeted measures: financial support, respite care services, back-up care plans, adaptations to confinement rules for persons with disabilities and caregivers, psychological support, protective equipment and continuous engagement with authorities. EU, national and local authorities need to partner with civil society more than ever to bring effective solutions to people.”
The same day, the European Commission and European Council announced the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures. EASPD fully welcomes the need for a cross-European approach to the next phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, with data suggesting that “care home residents have so far accounted for between 42% and 57% of all deaths related to COVID-19”, EASPD regrets that much of the Roadmap is still primarily focused on the health system, with only minor remarks to dealing with the social care crisis; both in the care facilities, but also in people's homes.
“In many areas, the EU institutions are now moving quickly and swiftly to provide solutions to this crisis. The Roadmap’s emphasis on a health and science-based approach to lifting containment is needed. Yet information sharing and data is also increasingly demonstrating that a big part of the crisis is in social care,” asserted Mr Thomas Bignal, Policy Advisor EASPD. He continued by stressing: “The Commission needs to engage more with civil society to accurately reflect the needs of persons with disabilities, caregivers and social care providers in the lifting of containment and economic recovery measures.”
EASPD will continue to work with the EU institutions and partners to ensure that any European initiative tackles effectively the social care crisis caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
- EASPD and EAN open letter on Ensuring EU Response to COVID-19 tackles threat of social care emergency
- EASPD Priorities for EU Response to COVID-19 regarding threat to Social Service Provision
- Joining Forces! EASPD COVID-19 Support Space
- Webinar Recording: Support services and informal carers: The importance of partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Registration for EASPD Webinar: Service providers moving to online support during the COVID-19 pandemic 22nd April
Note to editors
The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit European umbrella organization, established in 1996, and currently representing over 17,000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the UN CRPD principles, which could bring benefits not only to persons with disabilities, but to society as a whole.