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2012 Conference Presentation

Informal care EU

Support services for informal carers across Europe: a critical review of the evidence on policies and best practices

Emilie Courtin, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
Nadia Jemiai, London School of Economics
Juliet Chalk, London School of Economics


At a time when health and social care services in European countries are under pressure to contain or cut costs, informal carers are relied upon as the main caregivers for long term care. In recent years, the need for public support of informal carers has moved on to the social policy agenda of many EU member states. To design sustainable and efficient support services for informal carers in the future, it is crucial to know more about the situation of informal caregivers and what kind of support they currently receive.

The purpose of this presentation is to investigate the provision of support for informal carers across all 27 member states of the EU. Based on this review, the objective is also to contrast national characteristics of informal care provision. Using Julia Twigg's classification of models of care (informal carers as resources, as co-workers or as co-clients or carerblind systems), we will group countries and contrast the characteristics of their informal care provision with existing typologies of long-term care systems. This paper is based on the results of a mapping exercise of the profile and regulation of informal carers across the 27 EU member states. A detailed questionnaire was designed and sent to national experts in each EU member state to supplement secondary sources of information. The mapping exercise critically describes the socio-economic characteristics of informal caregivers (including their situation regarding employment), the national policies in place, the identification system, the support services (cash benefits, counselling, respite care, information and training), the legal entitlements and social protection provision (including pension provision) and the links between formal and informal care.

The results of the comparative analysis show broad variations between countries in terms of availability and reliability of the national data on informal care as well as regarding the amount of support provided. Important variations were also found between countries often clustered together in terms of their long-term care arrangements (e.g. Eastern Europe). Issues of definition were raised as in a number of Eastern European countries, informal care was ill-defined and the line is often blurred with personal care.

In most of the countries considered, the identification of informal caregivers as well as the assessment of their needs (as opposed to the assessment of the needs of the cared-for person) appears to be a real weakness although it is essential for evidence-based policies to be developed. By shedding some light on the current characteristics and entitlements of informal caregivers, this presentation aims to contribute to informing the policy debate on how best to support them.


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