On 8 October, the European Social Network (ESN) took part in a conference on the rights of older people in long-term care. The event, organised by the European Commission and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI), also saw the launch of a research project on human rights of older persons in care.
The aim of the event was to receive feedback on the project from various stakeholders with a social policy and human rights background. At the event, ESN emphasised the role of local and regional government as key in addressing the rights and needs of older people because of their responsibility to (depending on country) plan, assess, contract, deliver or monitoring of long-term care.
The international context
At international level, there are ongoing discussions about the rights of older people, driven by several international organisations. An Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, established by the General Assembly of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2010, is currently analysing the human rights situation of older people in the existing international framework, with an aim to identify possible gaps. This year, the 2014 Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council also focused on the human rights of older people.
Within this context, the new project run by ENNRHI and the European Commission aims to review and monitor human rights standards in different countries and develop recommendations to improve the rights of older people in long-term care.
More participation and choice
At the conference, participants discussed how the rights and needs of older people could be better addressed, who should be involved in the process and how this could be monitored in care settings. There was a general consensus that the priority should be on self-determination and involvement of older people. It was often emphasised that there is not “one group” of older people, rather a diverse group with different needs and interests.
In order to improve quality of care, many countries care needs to be re-defined away from an exclusively medical approach towards more participation and choice. Since carers often influence directly the quality of care, participants underlined that the project should also address professional carers and especially informal carers (since they contribute most of the care and are the closest to the older people in need of care). Measuring the quality of care services also surfaced as an important related issue.
During the discussion, the European Social Network (ESN) underlined the responsibility of regional and local authorities to develop services that promote choice, participation and the support of family carers. Questions around affordability and accessibility of services for service users organised by public authorities also need to be addressed in times of tight resources.