We live in a world where the increase in the elderly population and the decrease in mortality rates due to progress in medicine have given greater importance to the role of the caregiver, the person that takes care of someone with a disability, chronic disease or other factors that require assistance for long periods of time on a non-professional basis and without compensation. There isn’t any official data as per how many caregivers there are in Italy, but an ISTAT survey in 2015 estimates around 8.5 million.
According to Italian law, a family caregiver is defined as the person who “assists and takes care of a spouse, the other half of a same-sex civil union or defacto cohabitation partner, a family member or a first or second degree relative”.
This definition was created within the context of the 2018 Budget Law. This was the first approach to a definition, but as of yet there is still not a law that establishes the rights and duties of a caregiver. Previous legislation began to discuss this issue, even establishing a fund of 20 million euros for three years, but with nothing concrete done afterwards. Already in the rest of Europe caregivers must face the difficulties of their role on their own, but in Italy the situation is worse. France, Spain, Great Britain, Poland, Romania and Greece provide safeguards such as social security contributions and flexible working hours for caregivers. Italy still has not adopted any of these measures.
Working towards a law
One of the main problems is that Italian law does not recognize the role of the caregiver as a recipient of social security, remuneration or with specific rights related to the role. 30% of caregivers spend more than six hours a day taking care of someone, a real job for which no social security contributions, holiday or other form of protection is given.
From 2016 to today, six different bills incorporated in the August 2019 DDL, made up of 11 articles, have been presented. There are some interesting proposals such as the recognition of social insurance or the guarantee of core benefits and different working hours, but the DDL is still a work in progress. Unfortunately, this is only the first step in a long journey.
There is, however, a positive example. In 2014, Emilia-Romagna was the first region to adopt a law that “recognizes and promotes the role of the family caregiver as an informal component of the personal assistance network and resource of the integrated system of social, social-healthcare and healthcare services”. The intention was to standardize the responses in different territories to support caregivers through a more structured relationship. The law in Emilia Romagna has paved the way for the other regions that are working towards the adoption of similar legislation. These are small signs, but that make it known that the role of caregivers can no longer be ignored.
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