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ESN Policy and practice workshop

Building on ESN’s recent activities in the field of ageing and care, ESN members, senior managers and professionals from public social services, health agencies, research and workforce organisations met in Brighton on 25 October for a one day workshop to identify future priorities for developing services for older people. The discussions focused on the challenges and opportunities to support active and healthy ageing and social inclusion through social and health care, especially at home. ESN invited guest experts who are involved in the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing which brings many EU-funded projects into a single framework for mutual learning and policy development.

Francesca Avolio from the Regional Healthcare Agency of Puglia, Italy, explained the knowledge exchange process on integrated care in Europe. Joan Martin from Louth County Council, Ireland, described the age-friendly strategy in Louth, which is planned to be scaled-up from a county to a regional level, based on the direct involvement of older people, stating that: “It is a holistic approach that creates environments for all. Age-friendly starts from the cradle and continues until the end of life.”

ESN members emphasised that a local dialogue about the responsibility for planning for old age could help to create new social networks with communities, families and services. They noted the need to invest in a mixed workforce, including social care workers, health professionals, migrants, volunteers and family carers, who all perform different tasks, such as providing information, psychological, physical or medical support. However, both formal and informal carers often do not get sufficient financial and social support. 80% of the social care budgets are spent on staff, but social care workers are often low-paid and understaffed. In addition, family carers also often don’t get enough financial and societal support. Delegates underlined that future workforce planning and managing the mixture of carers can ensure that the right people are at the right place at the right time.

The shared role of health and social care was also on the agenda – and their impact on the wellbeing of older people. Workshop participants agreed to put the needs of service users first, before starting to integrate services, and to look at how to manage care services that deliver better person-centred care. They also discussed how to support people to stay at home for as long as possible by developing the skills of older people to live independently and providing the right setting of care.

ESN will investigate these questions on active ageing, workforce, integrated care, and home care in our future work together with ESN members, stakeholders and service users.