The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) organised a seminar in the European Parliament on the role of the EU in unlocking job creation in social services. Hosted by Mr Heinz K. Becker (EPP/AT) and Ms Marian Harkin (ALDE/IE), the event was an opportunity for EASPD to discuss with key partners the underlying barriers to job creation in social services, a sector that has created over 1.4 million new jobs since 2008.
Mr. Franz Wolfmayr, EASPD President, opened the seminar by calling for the European Union to recognise the triple job-creation potential in social services. MEP Mr Becker stressed the necessity to raise awareness about the issues affecting social care at EU level, arguing that awareness must also lead to action. He also called on the Social Rights Pillar to include a strong dimension on quality jobs in social care.
Mr James Churchill and Ms Andreia Moraru, Chair and co-chair of EASPD’s Interest Group on Human Resources, presented the main results of two studies commissioned by EASPD in 2015: (1) “Initial research on in-work poverty in the social service provision sector”; and (2) “Care in the 21st century – expanding the social care workforce for people with disabilities”. The studies highlight the main challenges faced by the workforce in social care services and provide valuable data supporting the need for action at policy level.
Presenting the research results, Mr Churchill stressed that social care is distinct from social work and health work: “It is largely ‘invisible’ yet social care is a growing and an important employment sector with huge job creation potential”. The studies show that there is now an “opportunity to make a major change in the quality of people’s lives through the updating of the skills and knowledge of the workforce but alongside this opportunity come some risks such as in-work poverty and unattractiveness of the sector to young workers.”
The first panel addressed the underlying barriers to job creation. It was opened by MEP Mr Georgi Pirinski (S&D/BU) who called on the EC’s Platform on Undeclared Work to focus on collecting data in the field of social care. He also argued that the European Semester must also start to look into these debates.
Mr Nicholas Costello, Deputy Head of Unit Job Creation at DG EMPL in the European Commission, recommended raising the issue of social care workforce in four policy developments: the European Pillar on Social Rights, the Skills Agenda, Work-life balance and the European Platform on Undeclared Work. Ms Heather Roy, President of Social Services Europe, pled that if the EC wants to create jobs in Europe, then it must invest in social services. Mr Mathias Maucher, Policy Officer at the European federation of Public Service Unions, concluded the panel discussion by calling on the EC to help support and strengthen social dialogue structures in Social Services at both national and European level.
MEP Ms Marian Harkin –who is also co-chair of the Carers Intergroup - opened the second panel on social care and quality of life by arguing that improving cooperation between informal and formal care is essential and must be included in the European Pillar of Social Rights. Mr Stecy Yghemonos, Executive Director of Eurocarers, argued against the false assumption by many member states that informal care is a cheaper option than developing a better balance between formal and informal care. Ms Ansofie Leenknecht, Human Rights Officer at the European Disability Forum, concluded the panel by re-affirming access to services for persons with disabilities is a right, not a charity and that more must be done to ensure access to quality services, in particular mainstream ones.
To conclude, Mr Luk Zelderloo, EASPD Secretary General, called on MEPs to develop an own-initiative report on “unlocking job creation in social services”; a call supported by Social Services Europe, the European federation of Public Service Unions and the European Disability Forum. EASPD will continue to work with the Members of the EP to ensure adequate solutions and a sustainable future for high quality social care in Europe.