Source: Help Wanted? Providing and Paying for Long-Term Care, OECD 2011, Chapter 1, P.44.
Seeking ways to support and maintain the supply of informal care is a potentially win-win-win approach for care recipients, carers and public systems. Current policies touch upon three main aspects: caring and labour markets, carers’ well-being, and financial recognition for caregivers. How might they be reinforced? A brief overview.
CARING AND LABOUR MARKETS
When it comes to caring and labour markets, three main actions can be strengthened to protect caregivers in the labour market. These include leave from work, flexible work schedules, and care leave to prevent burnout, helping carers combine caregiving with paid work. Today, two-thirds of OECD countries have leave for carers; though conditions for leave are limited and paid leave is restricted to slightly less than half of the countries. Often, paid leave is limited to those tending to a family member with terminal illness. Much like parental leave for the birth of a child, it is possible that care leave and flexible time would have a positive effect on employee retention.
Caregiving takes a high toll on those providing it. Respite care, which allows caregivers to hand over caregiving duties to a paid carer for short periods of time and counselling are both important ways to reduce stress loads for carers. Carers’ legal entitlement to respite services varies widely across OECD countries. Austria and Germany offer a specific allowance for respite for up to four weeks, Ireland an annual grant and Luxembourg funding for three-weeks of respite. Additionally, psychological counselling proves effective at reducing a carers’ stress levels, though few countries have put initiatives in to provide relief. Governments should consider increasing funding for such support.
FINANCIAL RECOGNITION FOR CAREGIVERS
Cash benefits for carers through a carer allowance, or tax incentives to benefit carers, represent another possible policy solution. Slightly less than 50% of OECD countries have direct payment to carers, and these include Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. While most countries have no specific tax incentives for carers, Ireland and the Czech Republic offer tax exemptions for carer’s allowances.
Help Wanted? Providing and Paying for Long-Term Care © OECD 2011 Ch.4, pp. 121-158.
Spotlight on Prevention: When, Who and How?
Unhealthy lifestyles and lack of physical activity are key factors in the development of chronic diseases. Early prevention and diagnosis, better education, and above all collaboration among governments, patient organizations, and industry are crucial to prevent chronic diseases from arising.