Optimising the European Social Pillar to #MakeWorkWork for those affected by Brain, Mind and Pain Conditions
On the International Women’s Day, the 8th of March MEP Interest Group on Brain, Mind and Pain and the Interest Group on Mental Health, Wellbeing and Brain Disorders have collaborated for the success of one joint event meant to analyse the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Several representatives of important stakeholders took part in this meetings at the European Parliament and exchanged ideas on the importance of the Commission’s initiative to come forward with a comprehensive Pillar on Social Rights.
Pain Alliance Europe Board Members participated to the event.
Joop van Griensven (PAE) opened the event welcoming the participants and thanked all those involved in obtaining signatures for the Written Declaration on Access to Employment for those affected by neurological disorders and chronic pain conditions. Some 180 signatures were gathered, and while this is not enough for the adoption of the Declaration by the European Parliament, this result is considered positive nevertheless. The work will continue as the Written Declaration will now become a Call to Action (#makeworkwork).
Dolores Gauci (GAMIAN-Europe) took over the chair, stating that her organisation warmly welcomes this initiative which will guide policies in a number of highly relevant fields which are essential for well-functioning and fair labour markets and welfare systems and is looking forward to the result of the analysis of the massive response receives as a result of the 9-month public consultation, organised to take stock and gather the views of citizens and stakeholders on the subject (16.500 online submissions and 200 position papers)
Raquel Cortés Herrera (European Commission, DG EMPL) presented the rationale and content of the Social Pillar.
The structure of the Pillar is based on a thematic approach, set out in three main chapters:
- Equal opportunities and access to the labour market: This includes skills development, life-long learning and active support for employment.
- Fair working conditions: Needed to establish an adequate and reliable balance of rights and obligations between workers and employers.
- Adequate and sustainable social protection: This includes access to health, social protection benefits and high-quality services, including childcare, healthcare and long-term care, which are essential to ensure a dignified living and protection against life’s risks.
The geographical scope – the Pillar only targets Eurozone countries – has created unease amongst stakeholders as many respondents have pointed out that the principles outlined in the Pillar are relevant to all Member States. However, other Member States can join on a voluntary basis, depending on the political will of their governments; they are not excluded.
Donna Walsh (European Federation of Neurological Associations) briefly introduced the focus areas of the MEP Interest Group on the Brain, Mind and Pain, i.e. stigma, quality of life (employment, education), patient involvement and research.
EFNA has submitted a joint response with Pain Alliance Europe to the Social Pillar consultation. EU social legislation is central to employment and educational opportunities for those affected by brain, mind and pain disorders. Although the Employment Equality Directive eliminates discrimination on grounds of disability in employment and vocational training there is no common definition of the term ‘disability’ across the EU, which hinders implementation of the Directive. The more ‘social’ definition provided by the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities should be adhered to as this provides more scope than the narrow medical definition.
Health at work is not just a socio-economic issue. In order to avail of the opportunities to access employment that the European Social Pillar could provide, people living with brain, mind and pain disorders need an early and accurate diagnosis as well as appropriate treatment and management.
The next panelist, Andreea Antonovici (European Multiple Sclerosis Platform), briefly introduced her organisation and its work in relation to employment.
In relation to the Social Pillar, EMSP has submitted a response which focuses on the need to tackle inequalities and make the necessary changes to make sure EU legislation is being applied at national level in order to put an end to discrimination. EMSP pledges for the empowerment of people with disabilities as they need to have access to the right tools and information in order to stand up for their rights
Katie Gallagher (European Patients’ Forum) introduced then her organisation and their point of view that all patients in the EU should have equitable access to high-quality, patient-centered health and social care.
EPF’s response to the Social Pillar Consultation emphasizes that the Social Pillar should apply to all Member States rather than to the Eurozone countries only. Appropriate means and tools need to be defined to support implementation, including indicators to monitor Member States’ accountability.
Sam Kynman (European Pain Federation EFIC) gave a brief presentation of his organisation’s campaigning and advocacy work to raise awareness of the personal and societal impact of pain.
During the discussions, participants asked questions about the geographical scope of the Social Pillar and whether limiting it to the Eurozone will not create wider divisions between the countries and also on how the European Parliament can influence this movement towards a more social Europe as social policy remains the competence of the national level.
In conclusion, Nessa Childers MEP called on participants to keep on raising their voices and stimulating awareness as many of the health conditions that have an impact are still not visible enough. We need to work together as the more these topics are spoken about the more impact they will have.
Marian Harkin MEP closed the meeting emphasizing that it is the responsibility of us all to ensure a social Europe in the future, where the voice of citizens counts.