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Our Staff Matter!

Support and social care staff are an invaluable asset to our societies, delivering high quality support that can empower individuals to enjoy their human rights and reach their full potential. With the new European Parliament and Commission looking ahead to the next 5 years, the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities, stresses that it is time to recognize the importance of support and social care staff  and to invest in the future disability workforce of tomorrow.
Social care and support services hold the key to creating a more social, inclusive and prosperous Europe. Through high-quality services our societies can enable individuals to equally access their human rights; facilitate social inclusion as well as promote work-life balance and gender equality for those with caring responsibilities.  Without the availability of a well-trained workforce however, none of the benefits of such support services would be possible.
With the recruitment and retention of social care and support staff becoming an increasing and ever more pressing problem across Europe, EASPD, the Service Foundation for People with an Intellectual Disability (KVPS) and their partners hosted the international conference: “Staff Matters! Disability Workforce of Tomorrow,” on 3rd-4th October. Together, with over 300 participants in Helsinki, the conference has explored how we can create the conditions for a disability workforce that can meet the future needs of persons with disabilities and their families.  
Bringing together the perspectives of service users, staff and service managers as well as researchers, local authorities civil society organisations and the message is clear: Working in the support and social care sector can be a highly rewarding and meaningful career, with numerous opportunities for both personal and professional development. Despite the opportunities the sector presents for potential employees, the sector fails to be consistently recognised as an attractive employer.  If the sector is to ensure that it is able to recruit the staff it needs to meet the demands of our societies, more must be done to promote the value, impact and opportunities working in the social sector provides.
To ensure that the sector and its workforce can reach their full potential, it is crucial that social care and support services have access to sufficient resources that can enable them to meet the needs of both users and staff.  James Crowe, EASPD President, reiterated the importance of investing into social and support services and the role the EU can play in this. Speaking from the conference he asserted that: Current underinvestment into the sector has undermined the ability of social services to provide their workforce with the appropriate training and support that they need. Via the next long-term EU budget the European Union can provide opportunities for much needed investment into the sector, which would not only help to unlock more equal and inclusive societies, but can also support one of the EU’s biggest job creators to provide meaningful employment to even more people.”
Looking to the future implementation of the UN CRPD Mr Crowe continued, “staff are the greatest asset of our services and are key implementors of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). The future European Disability Strategy must acknowledge the importance of support service staff and the role they play in enabling persons with disabilities to access key rights and services as well as fully participate in their communities.”
Alongside the importance of support services to the full implementation of the UN CRPD, Kirsi Konola, Vice-President of EASPD, highlighted the significance of the sector to the achievement of an Economy of Wellbeing. Adding to Mr Crowe’s comments, she stressed: “It is only by providing high quality social services, with a strong and well-trained workforce that an economy of wellbeing can become reality.”
Day Two of the conference will build on the debates of yesterday and continue to provide staff and employers with the chance to discuss the challenges and opportunities their sector faces. This dialogue is vital to ensure that the sector can develop and meet the future demands of our communities and additional platforms, including at an EU level, are need to facilite social dialogue between staff and employers.
The discussion of this conference will lay the foundations of EASPD’s declaration for the future of social work. To be kept up to date with Day Two of the the conference follow @EASPD_Brussels on twitter or use the hashtag #StaffMatters.

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For more information, please contact:

Asel Kadyrbaeva   

EASPD Research & Development Officer
+32 2 233  77 25