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First meeting of ESN's working group on Ageing and Care

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Services for older people often have the highest share in social services budgets. In recent years, the demand for services has been increasing and this trend is very likely to continue. The European Social Network (ESN) has recently launched a working group on Ageing and Care for ESN members to discuss how to address current challenges and opportunities in older people’s services. The first meeting took place in Brighton on 11- 12 September, and brought together senior professionals in local and regional government from seven countries (Iceland, Belgium, Spain, United Kingdom, Austria, France, Sweden and Latvia).

Experts in their field

The Ageing and Care group members are well equipped to lead the discussions on the topic, they have strategic and operational responsibilities to plan, finance, manage, provide or inspect services for older people, from municipalities as small as 45,000 inhabitants to regions as large as 5.5 million people. They work in the context of national or regional policy frameworks and deliver care for older people in different settings (home care, residential care, day care), cooperate with other sectors (such as health and housing), and offer a wide range of services, including leisure activities, meals on wheels or telecare.

European recommendations on long-term care

At the first meeting, ESN members analysed the report Adequate social protection for long-term care needs in an ageing society, published by the Social Protection Committee (SPC) and the European Commission earlier in June. Niclas Jacobson, Chair of the SPC working group on ageing, presented the report’s recommendations, which are in line with those in the Social Investment Package, focusing on prevention and rehabilitation, age-friendly environments and the use of technology. The report also calls for an assessment of policies and practices that work and are most cost-effective. The outcomes of the working group are meant to contribute to the regional and local implementation of the recommendations in the SPC report.

Local perspectives on services for older people

Two group members presented case studies about the type of care that an older dependent person may receive in their local area, opening the discussion on how these practices might solve current challenges.

The municipality of Östersund in Sweden is focusing on early intervention, the use of new technology, meeting places and volunteering opportunities, as well as the support for family carers. The municipality encourages providers to deliver rehabilitative services through financial incentives and assesses 65 quality criteria when contracting services.

ESN member Barcelona’s County Council pointed out the challenges they face in the delayed and fragmented implementation of the Dependency Act, a legislation from 2007 that regulates assistance for people in need of support. In order to maintain services provision, the County Council introduced co-payments, professional training and increased use of telecare and home adaptations.

The presentations helped to shape discussions on contracting public, non-profit and for-profit providers and quality measurement. Other issues were rehabilitative care in residential care, support for family carers, the involvement of older people and the application of research. Although research is needed to plan services effectively, members often have difficulties in applying research because of lack of data, political commitment or resources.

The agenda of the Ageing and Care working group

During the next two years, ESN’s working group on Ageing and Care will analyse national and regional policies and practices in older people’s services. Based on this analysis, the group will develop recommendations for sustainable, person-centred services. Over the course of five meetings between 2014 and 2016, the working group will look at the following thematic areas:

  • Cross-cutting issues such as service planning, contracting and evidence-based practice
  • Cooperation between health and social care
  • Active ageing
  • Workforce
  • Home-based care

The next meeting will focus on the coordination between health and social care, for which ESN will conduct an analysis of the effectiveness of practices for service users, the organisations and the professionals involved.

ESN members can access all the resources and presentations from the first meeting in the Members’ Area.