Joint letter from Ferpa and Epsu to the Council of Europe

Brussels, 17 June 2020
Dear President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Dear Mr. Rik Daems
Dear General Secretary, dear Mrs Marija Pejčinović Burić
The pandemic has caused havoc in Europe with many people infected and hospitalised. Mortality
has been high and especially among the elderly as well as among those workers providing care.
EPSU and FERPA, the European Federations representing workers in care and public services
and people in retirement and the elderly respectively, request the Council of Europe to investigate
the causes and possible solutions to this high mortality.
The Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Mrs. Dunja Mijatović has urged the
Member States of the Council to carry out such investigations. We see it as a task for the Council
to compare the experience in different countries and explore if there are communalities. We
agree with the Commissioner that violations of the human rights of the elderly took place
whenever they were refused care. The lack of protection for workers caring for the elderly and
other vulnerable groups exposed them but also those they care for to unnecessary risks and this
needs to be urgently addressed. This will help prepare countries for a second wave of the
pandemic and for any future pandemics.
As regards the European Union we are disappointed there is no recognition that in many
countries austerity measures have lead to underfunding of long-term care facilities. Nor is there
acknowledgement that the workers in elderly, residential and home care, mostly women, have
been seriously affected by the pandemic and that their work has been undervalued and
underpaid. There is a lack of both resources and staff. And whereas billions are pumped into the
economy, no additional funding appears to be made available to assist long-term, residential and
home care.
Mrs Dunja Mijatović suspects that human rights violations have occurred which could have been
prevented. In her statement of 20 May she said: (…) “In many countries and individual
institutions, management of the crisis appears to have been fragmented and chaotic, with care
personnel often being left to their own devices. Some have made heroic efforts to save residents,
sometimes confining themselves in the facilities and avoiding contact with their own families;

some countries, like Romania, even made it mandatory for staff to isolate themselves in long-term
care facilities or specially designated places. In other cases, residents were left in absolute
neglect or abandoned despite having been infected, as it was reported in Spain, for example. (…)
She went on: “ There is understandable outrage and frustration among family members who lost
their loved ones under very opaque circumstances. Many have made criminal complaints about
the management in care homes, for example in France. In Spain, prosecutors opened criminal
investigations for a number of facilities for older persons, and similar investigations are also
ongoing in Italy. In accordance with their obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention
on Human Rights regarding the right to life, member states must shed light on all the deaths
occurring in these institutions, without exception.” We want the Council to undertake these
The Human Rights Commissioner points out how Member States have probably violated various
conventions and failed to guarantee the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable groups their right
to health and right to care, including the right to long-term care (enshrined in the EU in the 2017
European Pillar of Social Rights (principles 16 and 18)). Human rights violations have occurred
that need to be explored and addressed so they are not repeated. The investigation will assist in
taking the appropriate measures to prevent such violations in a possible second wave or future
Dear President, Dear General Secretary
We remain available for further discussion on how best to prevent that elderly and others in care
are not again the victims of underfunding and such inadequate and ill-devised policies.

Read HERE the response from the Council of Europe’s President of the Parliamentary Assembly