How legislation impacts on aging with disability an aging into disability: The EU PATHWAYS project’s results from the perspective of employment sector
Matilde Leonardi | PATHWAYS Consortium, Foundation of the Carlo Besta Neurological Institute
In the years ahead disability will be an even greater concern to developed and developing nations due to aging populations, higher risk of disability in older people, as well as the global increase in chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health disorders. Non communicable diseases (NCDs) are broadly defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as diseases of long duration and generally slow progression that are not passed from person to person. NCDs pose a serious threat to society and future development as they are responsible more deaths and disability than all other causes together. The dual phenomena of global aging and increased longevity for individuals with disabilities represent new challenges for the 21st century. These include: strains on pension and social security systems; preparing health providers and societies; preventing and managing age and disability associated secondary conditions and chronic diseases; designing sustainable policies to support healthy aging and community-living as well as long-term and palliative care; and developing disability and age-friendly services and settings.
The last issue is where the EU Pathways project fits in as it aims at identifying and improving European strategies for professional integration and reintegration of persons with chronic diseases and mental health issues. The burden of chronic diseases is high and virtually impacts on all aspects of individuals’ lives, affecting also ability to work, earnings, job turnover. NCDs are also closely linked to growing state expenditures on disability benefits. Persons with NCD-related impairments of working capacity or health can be recognized as disabled by their governments and thus be eligible for disability pensions.
One of the main objectives of the project is to map existing strategies used in Europe to provide employment support to persons who may have difficulties to find a job and to work due to their long-term health problems/disability. Pathways has mapped available policies in Europe and in 10 countries: Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and United Kingdom. The countries represent the five European welfare models: Scandinavian, Continental, Anglo-Saxon, Mediterranean, and ‘Post-Communist’. Identifying strategies in countries from different welfare models allows exploring potential commonalities and differences and identifying possible trends in the region. Strategies considered in this study are at the level of policies, systems, and services.
Results showed that people affected by NCDs represent a ‘grey zone’: when they enter the category of persons with disabilities, depending on the legislation of individual countries, they benefit of the employment strategies for persons with disabilities. However when people with NCDs do not fall into the category of persons with disabilities they are not covered by employment services, systems and policies.
Lessons learned from the case of legislation on employment for people with NCDs should be used as a key factor for the need to better plan strategies for aging with disability and aging into disability international trends.
The EU PATHWAYS project received funding from the European Union’s Health Programme (2014-2020) Grant agreement n. 663474