The Caregiver: a fundamental figure in healthcare

In Italy, more than 2.8 million people look after sick and disabled family members on a regular basis; a responsibility that regards  5.9% of men and 9.4 % of women from 18-64 years old.  Quite often, these same people also take care of their own children and other family members at the same time.

This data was published by Istat in a document that further explores “Reconciliation between work and family life”, based on the 2018 European LFS ad-hoc module of the same name.

In this respect, caregivers are full-fledged workers, but have no rights in Italy. Every day they face difficulties that could easily be overcome if only there was a network of aid and acknowledgement of the social importance of their activities.

Who is a caregiver?

The term caregiver refers to someone who takes care, on a long-term basis and without payment, of a person in need due to any disease or condition that has caused the person to become non self-sufficient.  A caregiver is different than a general caretaker in that caregivers are not employed to look after someone, but offer their support free of charge out of a sense of duty and for sentimental reasons.

The number of caregivers is destined to rise as the average life-span increases, and thus also the percentage of the elderly population. The real problem is that while legislation in the rest of Europe has been moving towards the recognition and legitimization of caregivers, the situation in Italy is at a standstill.

The Care Act in England has recognized the caregiver’s right to an assessment of their needs -independently from the person they are caring for- since 2014. The goal of this legislation was to review the existing sixty-year legislation regarding social assistance in England. The Care Act is quite long (129 clauses in the main part of the law) and deals with many issues. 107 recommendations were made from public consultation and many of them were adopted.

Legislative recognition in Italy

Italy has been waiting for a law that recognizes and safeguards the work of a caregiver for some time.  Caregivers are a pillar of the country’s social fabric, but they still haven’t received the juridical attention they deserve.

The only reference to caregivers and their work in the current laws in force can be found in Law no. 205 of 27 December 2017 (2018 Budget Law):
-Art. 1, paragraph 255 – definition and recognition of caregiver.
-Art. 1, paragraph 254 – establishment of a Fund for the support and caretaking role of a family Caregiver, allocation of 20 million euros per year for 2018, 2019 and 2020, increasing to 25 million with the 2019 Budget Law.

Apart from this, the last few years we have been waiting for legislative proposals to be submitted and presented in the Senate. It now looks like things will begin moving again. In fact, bill 1461, before Nocerino’s signature, was submitted to the Senate last August for preliminary consideration by the committee.

The bill is based on proposals that were already presented to the Senate, but which have been expanded on and also include new elements, such as appointment, social contributions and benefits. The bill, however, still doesn’t resolve the most important issues.

We hope that in the near future a law will be passed that acknowledges a central figure in the lives of thousands of Italians.

© Domedica s.r.l.

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