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A fundamental element of community care is ensuring that older people requiring support receive high-quality, person-centred care that is tailored to their unique needs and preferences. This perspective aligns seamlessly with the approach trialled in the Rural Care project, which focuses on a preventive and proactive care model that places individuals’ life projects and vital needs at the forefront, for elderly people living in rural areas in Spain.

These principles formed the centrepiece of discussions during the project's concluding conference, held on 25 September at the European Committee of the Regions. “A social innovation project, which lived up to its expectations and paved the pathway for a new model of care,” said Dana Carmen Bachman, Head of Unit, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion in the European Commission.

Shifting towards Integrated Home and Community Care for Older People

Building on the evidence of several reports, ESN continues to advocate that the EU needs to support social services to shift from institutional care to home and community care. To make that shift, integrated care and support should be a shared goal among the agencies and services that support the person. By enabling older people with care needs to stay in their homes for as long as possible, their quality of life can be significantly improved. This was also highlighted by Maria Angeles de Alvaro, Head of Health Planning, Social and-Health Coordination and Mental Health Services, Regional Government of Castilla y Leon, Spain (ESN member and project lead) who stressed the importance of delivering care in an integrated way. “It is vital that the provision of care is perceived as a holistic service”, she stressed.

How Delivering Person-Centred Care Looks Like

It is essential that an ecosystem of services is built around the person receiving care. “People are at the centre of the provision of care, and respecting their preferences is fundamental in this process”, said Maria Isabel Blanco, Regional Minister for Family and Equal Opportunities in Castilla y Leon, in her opening remarks.  Contrary to the traditional approach, which does not always suit people’s preferences, Rural Care's experimental approach demonstrates that by recognising the right to care at home and in the community, it is possible and feasible to offer personalised care in a universal manner. Likewise, in her concluding remarks, Stefania Illinca, Technical Officer for long-term care at the World Health Organization, underlined that both the care user and the caregiver should have the choice to select what services they need.

Addressing Workforce Shortages: A Pressing Issue

A common concern expressed by participants revolved around the pressing need for a skilled and resilient workforce, a challenge faced by many social services organisations across Europe and particularly exacerbated in rural areas. “We need services and people to provide them,” Sirpa Pietikäinen, Member of the European Parliament, said. Investing in the workforce and providing support are crucial factors not only for enhancing the attractiveness of the sector but also for ensuring the quality of social services and care for older people.