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What is the situation for the workforce in the health and care sectors? Are there common trends in Europe when it comes to wages, working conditions and staff training requirements? How have budgetary cuts impacted the sector? Following the establishment of the European Observatory of Human Resources in 2014, EASPD now presents the first results of the research conducted by Prof. Dr. Jane Lethbridge. It maps the training and educational requirements in the disability sector, the workforce situation and future job creation potential of the social service provision.

The social care workforce for persons with disabilities and senior citizens is one of the fastest growing sectors in terms of employment expansion in Europe. However, there are unmistakable signs that austerity measures are hindering this expansion, even though demand for social services will remain high, in light of Europe’s ageing population. Budget reductions are affecting not only the availability and affordability of the services, but also the working conditions and overall quality of services. Whilst results minutely varied from one European country to another, this research shows that altogether, the sector is characterised by high training needs, low pay jobs, low status and part-time hour contracts.

Similar trends in Europe

This research has identified similar trends across Europe that must be addressed to secure a high quality, motivated and trained workforce in order to deliver first-rate services, fully adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities.

Recruitment procedures, staff shortages and lack of training standards:

36% of the study’s respondents reported that no qualifications were necessary to start working in social care at entry-level, as opposed to the 44% that reported a vocational qualification was compulsory. Nevertheless in almost all countries basic care workers must have acquired secondary-level education in order to receive employment. In many European countries, the shortage of social care workers and/or the low standards of recruitment, result in the employment of unqualified staff. The lack of social workers is particularly affecting rural areas.

Whilst in Western European countries, new systems of training are being introduced (Germany, the Netherlands), in Central and Eastern Europe attempts have been made to improve the level of credentials needed to qualify for employment in the sector (Hungary). There is not the same trend towards improved levels of training though. In England there was an attempt to introduce a national vocational qualification for all care workers, but it was abandoned because of the difficulties in recruiting staff, due to budgetary cuts. In some countries such as Austria, contracts between service providers and regional authorities define the level of qualifications, with this ratio increasingly being determined by the level of funding. The research concludes that there are some measures in place to improve the level of qualifications, but low wages in the sector makes it difficult to recruit in many countries. In Bulgaria for example, social workers can be paid less than 1 € per hour. Moreover, the impact of austerity policies on budgets for social care is resulting in pressure to reduce staff costs, either through reducing the level of qualifications required or through lower wages. Consequently applicants can enter care work without any relevant qualifications or experience, and in some cases organisations are required to train them.

The disability sector is undergoing extensive changes such as the move from a medical model to a social model, more in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Therefore, there is an ever-important need for training in all categories of the social sector’s workforce, as reported by the majority of the study’s respondents (61% of the services providers and 78% of the umbrella organisations).

Workforce mobility:

Despite the existence of several barriers (language skills, transferability of qualifications), there is a gradually increasing trend for social care workers to cross borders to find work. When analysing mobility, it is also important to take into account the economic situation of the sector in each country. The research shows two main trends: Firstly, European countries experiencing “care drain”, where qualified care workers are moving to other countries to find better paid work. This situation damages organisations in the country of origin, as they used their resources to train future migrant workers. Secondly, European countries in need of social care workers where public allowances for care are sometimes used to informally employ a migrant worker without training or employment security.

7 Recommendations for the Sector:

– Training at EU level: minimum skills for working with people with disabilities should be validated across Europe, including involving users in training.
– Quality control and clear measures to define quality in services: development of a general funding standard and quality framework for services at European level.
– Share experiences and innovative practices on recruitment and induction across Europe to improve standards of care services.
– Reinforce the consultation process between national governments and service providers to show to decision makers the importance of pay and working conditions in the social care sector.
– Identify the successful and unsuccessful policies at the national level.
– Establish a “culture of learning” to have a trans-national consensus on the skills needed to work with people with disabilities.
– Development of the European Care Certificate and supporting e-learning initiatives.

The disability sector faces several challenges to the future of service provision. The supply of a well-trained, experienced workforce will be essential, and will depend upon two essential aspects: funding opportunities and political will. There is a job creation potential to be explored in the sector.

The target of EURAVON (European System for Recognition And Validation Of Non-formal & Informal Youth Learning Deriving From Voluntary Civil Service) is to create a systematic tool for monitoring, recognition and certification of key transversal competencies acquired via non-formal and informal learning during voluntary service experiences which also enables the transfer of EU mobility in that sector.

EURAVON logo

EURAVON logo

Some outputs of this project:

  • A survey will take place to comprehend volunteers training needs and gaps in recognition and assessment of their competencies, individual needs of obtaining them, relevant methodologies and pedagogical approaches in terms of Youth Education etc.
  • The EURAVON tool will enable recognition, monitoring and validation of competencies acquired by the volunteers during the civil service.
  • Evaluation Planning will be producing a usability evaluation summary, where the primary goals of EURAVON (such as usability & accessibility of the tools, effectiveness of the EURAVON system, learning outcomes of the toolkit regarding the improvement of the key transversal competencies of the youth volunteers) will present the evaluation methods chosen suitable to assessing the achievement of these goals

MobileHCI 2010 (www.mobilehci.org) conference, the 12th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, will be held in Lisbon between the 7th and the 10th of September. The MobileHCI series provides a forum for academics and practitioners to discuss the challenges and potential solutions for effective interaction with mobile devices and services. It covers the design, evaluation and application of techniques and approaches for all mobile and wearable computing devices and services.
This ACM published conference has as motto “A mobile World for all”. The papers’ submission deadline is 29/1/2010.

This is a reminder for 1st International OASIS (www.oasis-project.eu) Conference that will take place on November 4-5, 2009 in Florence, Italy. It will provide a forum to present current and future work as well as to exchange ideas in the field of Independent Living and Autonomous Mobility for elderly.

OASIS is a Large Scale Integrating Project – partially funded by the European Commission (FP7-ICT 215754) – with the aim to develop an open and innovative reference architecture, based upon ontologies and semantic services, that will allow plug and play and cost-effective interconnection of existing and newly developed services in all domains required for the independent and autonomous living of older people and their enhanced Quality of Life.

Topics that will be addressed:
– How to support holistically the independent living and mobility of the elderly across Europe?
– How to connect services for the elderly in an one-stop-shop fashion and interrelate/ integrate them?
– What are the elderly and their families/carers primary needs, concerns and expectations from the technologies and services arising?

These, and much more, are to be presented in Florence, in the 1st International OASIS Conference.

Registration and full details are available at the OASIS website.