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On 29 September 2016, Eurocarers took part in the Seminar “Policies for families: Is there a best practice?”, organised in Brussels in the framework of the FamiliesAndSocieties Project.

What are the current trends in social policies related to families in Europe? What are the most important areas for future policy interventions? Are there best practices to be followed? These were the main questions discussed at the fourth FamiliesAndSocieties Stakeholder Seminar in Brussels.

The Full report of the event is available here.

Even though the focus of the event was mainly on childcare policies, it offered interesting reflections valid also in the case of long-term care responsibilities.

First of all, as highlighted by the MEP Brando Benifei in his keynote speech, there is the need to reinforce and modernize European welfare systems as a whole in order to promote wellbeing of families and individuals.

Secondly, many speakers highlighted the role played by culture in the designing and the implementation of social policies. The difference in the cultural background across the EU explains why social policies in EU countries differ so much and why there is not one solution that can fits all. Moreover, culture has an impact also on the take up of the different provisions provided for by the law. “There is also the issue of people who may be eligible to parental leave but don’t dare take it. For example, workplace culture is still a big barrier to father’s leave in many countries”. This statement by Prof. Anne Gauthier is valid also in the case of carer’s leave. Indeed, in countries where there are provisions on carer’s leave, there might be a reluctance to use it, at both the individual and the enterprise level. Hence, the need to invest in campaigning and to create a carer friendly culture.

Another interesting element that emerged from the discussion was the need to ensure gender equality when designing family policies. It was stressed that a true gender equality doesn’t consist only in increasing women’s participation in the labour market, but rather a  a reconsideration of roles, with a better sharing between men and women in the caring responsibilities. The speakers stressed the need for leaves to be paid, in order to support the income of the person having caring responsibilities.  

Then, the panelists were asked how much families look at Europe. The reply was unanimous: measures such as the parental leave at EU level brought important changes at national level. Therefore, the current initiatives at EU level in the field of work-life balance are an interesting development that needs to be put forward. It is important to remind that – in the New start initiative for work-life balance- the European Commission refers also to LTC and foresee a carer’s leave. In relation to those developments at EU level, Ms Nurez Diez Guardia (EC) informed the audience about the reluctance from the employers. She pointed out that – whereas the trade unions are in favour of EU initiatives on work-life balance (including care’s leave), the employers believe that some things may be better dealt with at the level of the enterprises. Hence, the importance – when advocating for changes in social policies- to provide arguments about the benefits for the employers and for the economy (the business and economic case).

There was a recognition of the importance of a collaborative approach between researchers, policy makers and civil society.

Finally, it was stressed that families are a dynamic entity and – as a result of this- social policies should adopt a lifecycle approach.