Across the continent, like many other sectors, social service providers are taking incredible measures to effectively deal with prevention, support and containment. This necessity is even more important given the nature of social service provision which is to provide care, support and health services to people who can be far more at risk to COVID-19 than the general population, including for instance many older people, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable persons.
The spread of COVID-19 will create major challenges for social service provision in several ways. On the one hand, it is expected that demand for support will increase due to both increased illness and the early release of many patients currently being cared for in hospitals. At the same time, the supply of service provision will be reduced to the point that many services will simply not be able to be provided – as it already the case in some parts of Italy.
Europe already has significant waiting lists and staff shortages in social care and support in most if not all European countries. The potential risk that up to 20% of workers will be unable to work would have significant consequences on an already extremely stretched workforce. The fact that many if not all countries require specific staffing levels in social care will also mean that many service providers will be legally obliged to close. The supply of adequate health & safety equipment for workers (masks, gloves, etc.) is also problematic given that the healthcare system is currently being prioritized, thus increasing the risk of contagion in social care.
In response to the outbreak EASPD and the European Aging Network (EAN) have written an open letter to European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, to highlight that the provision of essential social care and support services to millions of older persons, persons with disabilities, children and other vulnerable persons in Europe is under threat following the spread of COVID-19.
The letter call for action at all levels and offers support for the Commission’s current proposals regarding state aid and the flexibility within the Stability and Growth Pact.
In response to the announcement of a €25 billion Corona Response Investment Initiative, which includes targeting the health care systems and other vulnerable parts of our economies, EASPD and EAN have stressed that there should also be a dedicated strand to supporting the continuity of social service provision across Europe.
In addition to this letter, EASPD has identified a number of priorities the EU should consider in response to COVID-19 regarding threat to Social Service provision.