“It cannot happen again” – European Parliament discusses the tragic impacts of COVID-19 on residential care

The European Parliament plenary debated, on 8 October 2020, the impact of the pandemic in long-term care facilities. There was a large consensus that there have been serious breaches of the dignity of older people and people with disabilities.

Responding to an introductory statement by European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Suica, many Members of the Parliament (MEPs) recognised structural problems in long-term care systems. MEP Benoît Lutgen (EPP/Belgium), focused on the deeply rooted lack of choice for older people in need of care:

EP Portrait of MEP Benoît Lutgen

“We need to respect the choice of older people to go or not to go to care homes. People are in care homes because we haven’t looked at the range of actors that can support them to live at home. We must see the bigger picture.”

Most highlighted EU’s shared responsibility and governance mechanisms available – be it through the European Semester or the provision of EU funds – to coordinate national policy responses.

Several MEPs called for investigations about the management of the crisis, in the manner of MEP Eugenia Rodriguez Palop (GUE/NGL, Spain), from Spain, who said “we’ll need to know who died, why they died” or MEP Miriam Lexmann (EPP, Slovakia) who advised that shortages, including insufficient support to the facilities, are carefully examined.

Some also openly referred to the societal attitudes that are behind the underdevelopment of Europe’s care systems. MEP Brglez (S&D, Slovenia) reflected on the weight of ageism, which the crisis has revealed clearly:

Official EP portrait of Milan Brglez

“Older people are viewed as a social burden. Together we need to do more for intergenerational solidarity to ensure the respect of the rights of older people”

Dubravka Suica, Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, represented the European Commission in the debate. She committed to addressing the challenges in the upcoming actions, which include the Green Paper on Ageing, the Action Plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Conference on the Future of Europe:

Picture of European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Suica

“We will need to take a close look at long-term care indeed and I am totally in alignment with you”, she said in reference to the demands for EU action to ensure quality of care.

This debate follows a joint call from AGE, the European Disability Forum – EDF and the European Federation of Public Service Unions – EPSU to the European Parliament to investigate the situations witnessed in care homes across the EU, which received the support of 88 MEPs.

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An investigation on long-term care during COVID-19 at European level?

AGE Platform Europe, the European Public Service Union and the European Disability Forum, have called for a European investigation into the management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the long-term care sector. A wealth of evidence is emerging about the risk to which staff and beneficiaries of long-term care have been exposed to, given the lack of protective equipment, adequate working conditions and access to testing and treatment. The call was directed to European PArliament President David Sassoli, as the only directly representative European institution should be the one investigating abuses to EU Fundamental Rights on an EU scale.

The call was supported by a group of 88 MEPs accross the political spectrum:

“We, as Members of the European Parliament, believe that it is absolutely necessary to examine what happened at European level with all the means at our disposal, in order to have comprehensive data in front of us and to identify political and management responsibilities, so that we can change course immediately.

We are committed to ensuring that the European Parliament has the will and strength to discover and reconstruct what has happened, strengthen attention on these facilities, find alternatives of group housing and avoid other mistakes and tragedies.”

Supporting statement by MEPs for investigative action on long-term care and COVID-19

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‘Solidarity between Generations must guide us through the crisis’, MEPs say to Commission & Council

On May 29, 36 Members of the European Parliament have sent a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel, calling for upholding the EU treaty principle of solidarity between generations during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.

Continue reading “‘Solidarity between Generations must guide us through the crisis’, MEPs say to Commission & Council”