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Care sector needs European strategy, CoR members argue  

​CoR members call for new European Care Strategy to include proposal to encourage private-sector investment and to set targets for care for the elderly.

Local and regional leaders have backed the creation of a European care strategy intended to encourage minimum standards for care for European Union citizens throughout their life cycle, from early childhood to old age. The recommendations call on national governments to invest more in care services and try to standardise data, backs EU-level action to attract skilled workers into the sector – and suggests the introduction of investment criteria to stimulate private-sector funding into the sector.

Care services are a responsibility of member states and sometimes of regional governments, but the COVID pandemic put a spotlight on weaknesses on care services within the Union, prompting calls for greater European support – and funding – for care services. An immediate result was substantial EU funding for health care and child care through the emergency Resilience and Recovery Facility. A longer-term result – a European Care Strategy presented by the European Commission in September 2022 – sets out ways in which the EU can support member states in their provision of health care, addresses ways of helping and increasing the number of care staff, and urges an increase in care available to young children.

The CoR's rapporteur on the European Care Strategy Heinrich Dorner (AT/PES), a minister in the Austrian region of Burgenland – called for "a joint strategy shared by all EU local and regional authorities responsible for health, care and education, and Member States, as well as the EU institutions, to make care more accessible, affordable and of better quality. The strategy should help closing the territorial gaps in availability of and access to long-term care, in particular in rural and depopulating areas". He also stressed that "the creation of affordable, more accessible, available and high-quality care services is an important step towards ensuring women's participation in the labour market and thus gender equality".

Mr Dorner won support for a proposal not included in the European Commission's strategy – the introduction of a 'social taxonomy', a common code for investors, businesses and regulators on finance that can be considered to make a sustainable social contribution. The development of a 'green taxonomy', seen as a means of increasing investment in climate-related action, is a cornerstone of the European Green Deal and has been adopted by EU member states.

The CoR also called for the extension of the 'Barcelona targets' to include care for the elderly, a proposal not included in the European Commission's strategy. EU member states in 2002 established targets – the 'Barcelona targets' – for early-childhood education and care. Their aims include making it easier for women to join the labour market.

A large majority of CoR members took the view that the proposals – including the introduction of "national long-term care coordinators" and support for a standardisation of data across the EU – would not weaken the authority of national governments.

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