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21st European Social Services Conference: Workshops

Health and social services for older people with care needs had a high profile at the European Social Services Conference this year. Plenary speeches and workshop presentations drew attention to current practice in Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Spain and the UK. Karen Heebøll outlined the vision of Fredericia in Denmark to be “a municipality with active and resourceful elderly, who can maintain everyday life for as long as possible.” Kathleen Lynch, Ireland’s minister for older people, noted that we, as a society, had to “plan social services for older people knowing that we are planning for our own care in the future.” A number of workshops pick up the challenge of developing social and health services for a population that is living longer.

The Government of Catalonia (Spain) has estimated that 24% of social services clients have health problems, a number that is rising because of the crisis. The Government of Catalonia has given the impulse to promote local pilot partnerships between health and social care but has encountered significant barriers, such as social services’ caution about absorption into much bigger health system organisations and the large number (forty) of different IT systems operating in the sectors. The local pilot projects will be subject to external evaluations with the aim of spreading good practice that is based on evidence throughout Catalonia. In response, delegates underlined the importance of starting with the service user, joint training of health and social professionals and good local and organisational management to deliver change.

Ireland’s Health Service Executive is implementing a single assessment tool for services for older people. It aims to maximise value, to ensure that needs are met and ensure that older people remain at home in independence for as long as possible. A multi-disciplinary working group was established to develop the single assessment tool. The internationally known interRAI tool was taken as the starting point. It provides a framework for assessing health and social care needs, provides guidance on evidence-based care planning and facilitates information sharing. More than 95% of professional carers were supportive of the adoption of interRAI. Service users and carers found the language easy to understand and stated they were ‘happy’ or ‘satisfied’ with the assessment process. The new tool will be implemented gradually in different service areas over the next four years. 

ESN’s future priorities on health and social services for older people with care needs will be shaped by a policy and practice workshop in October this year. ESN Members will gather to discuss current practice in the context of EU initiatives on long-term care by the Social Protection Committee, and on active and healthy ageing by DG Health and Consumers.