At the Eurocities Social Affairs Forum in Barcelona back in May, Dominique Bé, from the European Commission, concurred that “the EU care strategy should get input from local governments.”
And the European Commission has adopted the EU care strategy last week. The plan sets a framework to guide member states in developing quality care systems, particularly on gender equality, work-life balance, childcare and support to children and long-term care.
During discussions on the strategy, Eurocities contributed to its development by articulating the needs and challenges faced by local governments, especially in the field of early childhood education and care.
“Cities have been allies in pushing the EU Care Strategy forward,” says Lia Barrese, Eurocities Policy Advisor. “They invest considerable resources from their municipal budgets in childcare and play a key role in offering the necessary support as the level of government closest to citizens.”
The strategy’s principles are framed in the European Pillar of Social Rights. More concretely, the initiative will propose two Council recommendations, one on revising the 2002 Barcelona targets that concern childcare and one on long-term care.
Increased demand for long-term care services on the local level results from low birth rates and high life expectancy, which also impact labour markets and healthcare systems in general. According to the European Commission, the number of seniors aged 65 years or older in metropolitan areas increased by 24% between 2001 and 2011.
One of the critical suggestions by the cities related to the EU care strategy was to bring together all levels of government (including local ones) to work on an integrated strategy. Cities should be involved from the very beginning in defining national strategies and lines of action to tackle the care system’s challenges.
In the paper ‘Eurocities inputs to EU care strategy’, the network gathered four additional recommendations:
- Guarantee equal access to essential care services for all
- Make EU funding easily accessible to cities
- Adopt an integrated approach to care
- Make long-term care jobs more attractive
For example, placing the child at the centre of childcare and ensuring funding to improve services is central to many cities’ strategies.
“Within the framework of our campaign, Inclusive cities for all, 19 cities signed pledges to deliver real actions to contribute to Principle 11 on Childcare, supporting the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, together committing with over €6 billion to reinforce childcare services,” adds Barrese.
That is only one example of how cities commit to delivering services to the vulnerable, including investments channelled through the local budgets.
Eurocities’ participation in creating the EU care strategy and its essential future role in its implementation is crucial to both, shaping the strategy, considering local needs, and closing the gap between stakeholders that need to work together to make it successful.