According to estimates, currently 80 million Europeans are living with a disability, which roughly accounts to 15% of the total EU population. 1 in 4 Europeans has someone in their family living with a disability. This also means, that many of these people are either full or part-time carers for their disabled relative. 90% of the family carers are women, some of whom caring for their disabled child or children as single mums, while many either working full or part-time. Family carers are at heightened risk at suffering from mental health problems, as well as injuries and chronic pain due to lifting. There is also a greater risk of poverty and isolation and loneliness, as well as family members report experiencing discrimination by association.
The UN CRPD is the first social convention to be ratified by the EU, hence the importance for COFACE to make the link between the work of the UN and EU policies. The Convention elaborates and clarifies existing obligations, providing within a single text the accepted global legal standards on disability rights. It recognises that equality, dignity, autonomy, independence, accessibility and inclusion are key to ensuring that people with disabilities are able to enjoy the same human rights across the world. One of the most important features of the UN CRPD is the paradigm shift, away from the medico-charity model of disability status of people with disabilities, in the way disability is conceptualised: persons with disabilities are no longer considered unable to play an active role in society. Nor are they viewed as in need of “fixing” to fit in. Instead, their capacity is recognised and emphasis is placed on society’s need to adapt to facilitate the full participation of these individuals.
COFACE, as the voice of all families in Europe, including families with care responsibilities would like to see a similar paradigm shift at the Labour market or employers’ level. We would like to see a change in the way family carers, who at the same time are also workers and employees are enabled to reconcile their work and carer’s responsibilities in order to continue receiving an income, which not only offers financial security, but also enables them to save up for a pension, and as well would avoid exclusion and isolation through their participation in a social setting, their place of work.
In order to achieve this, the three pillars of family policy play a major role:
– Adequate TIME arrangements offering part-time, flexi-time and tele-work possibilities
– Financial RESOURCES, whether through an enabling labour-market or other financial support
– Available, affordable quality SERVICES to care for the disabled person while the main family carer is at work.
We believe the EU, and especially the EU2020 strategy holds some of the key changes needed to realise these ambitious goals, in fact Europe has already done a lot towards helping the situation of family carers:
– Opening discussion at EU level about carer’s leave
– The recognition and status of the carer
– Provision of adequate pension and social rights
– Working towards a “better gender-balance in family care” and fostering female employment
– Encourage a more inclusive labour market and flexible time arrangements
– Debating and working towards prevention and protection from poverty and social exclusion
– Use of structural funds to favour the transition from institutional to community based care (D-I).
COFACE is organising two events in the European Parliament to address these issues. One on the 15th May, the other on the 26th June. Registration is still possible. To see and get information about the COFACE events, please go to here