EU ZMK's Diary

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” ~Harry S Truman

Conference on Social Innovation (Brussels, 13th June 2012)

The co-organizers of the Conference on Social Innocation and Independent Living were the Liaison Agency Flanders-Europe (VLEVA) and the Kent County Council on behalf of the Social Inclusion Regional Group (SIRG). The invited speakers firstly presented a comprehensive view on the role of the social innovation in the elderly care during the plenary session followed by the closing remarks of HE Jo Vandeurzen, Flemish Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family. Afterwards, 4 different workshops were set up to share best practices and to tackle special issues such as

1. Supporting independent living elderly and their informal carers

2. Living independently better, longer and safer: technology can help, but how to implement?

3. Autonomy, empowerment and dignity in residential care

4. Persons with disabilities or ethnic background

(I had the pleasure to participate in the 1st and 4th workshop sessions).

Comment: At the end of this blog entry, you’ll find a questionnaire in EnglishFrenchDutch targeting the impact of new technical equipments on the social sector.
The documents of the meeting are now available on the vleva website.

Social innovation in focus as a tool to tackle the consequences of our ageing population

Nowadays the expression of ‘ageing population’ became a common place. The generation of baby boom is getting older, and the gap between caregivers (1) and persons in need (2) grows exponentially. As soon as the number of the latter overcame the former, the balance between the care expenditures and incomes will be less sustainable than ever. Hence, there is an urgent need to find ways out. A possible solution may be the innovation in social care.

Housing as an important aspect of elderly care

“Where to live?” This simple statement implies a lot of questions to be answered since there is an emerging need to find appropriate housing solutions for those aged 50 and over.

“At home.” – can be the most obvious answer which is at the same time an important policy goal: to keep people in their own homes for as long as possible. From that point of view the right policy will take into account the PUSH factors (factors forcing older people to institutional facilities – even if it isn’t needed) and the PULL factors (adapt the housing situation of elderly people to the changed circumstances) and will exploite as much as possible the PULL factors.

Having said that, let’s have a look at the opportunities of urban developing as a tool for creating elderly friendly urban environment.

The idea of age-friendly cities was set up first by WHO in 2006 which aims at including the age-friendly approach into urban planning. Since elderly people who have been living their life at the same place for decades don’t want to change in their houses anything at all. However, they will have natural needs and wishes, such as avoiding too much traffic, noise, degradation and pollution, having enough facilities and a pleasant neighbourhood, etc. Briefly: they would like to have integrated care and houses and no ‘ghettos’. Therefore, a long-term perspective and solution would be to persuade people that they make the necessary changes during the active part of their life. To make a good example we can start this persuasion with ourselves since as mortal beings ageing concerns all of us.

Municipalities as key players in urban planning

We can hardly overestimate the importance of urban planning and as the municipalities are the closest decision makers to the ordinary people, the local decision-makers can help a lot by paving the way for neighbours, local communities, and NGOs to create the appropriate physical environment inside and outside for the elderly people’s houses. The politicians have to provide the framework so that the civil society can do the job properly by working on important factors (such as physical space, free access, use of space, design, local networks etc). This was the key political message of HE Jo Vandeurzen, Flemish Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family.

Social environment

Obviously, particular attention shall be given not only to the physical but to the mental environment. The social/psychological well being of elderly people is sometimes even more important since it determines their mental health. Without a healthy mental life, no healthy life is imaginable.

In order to achieve all the above mentioned tasks, some kind of integrated approach is inevitable. At every (international – national – municipal) level only an effective transsectoral policy making can provide us with a real integrated solution. Appropriate social care is inseparable from health care services. The decision makers have to take into account that the social and health expenditures are closely linked to each other and with no transsectoral approach, the savings in one pocket of the state (ex. in the health sector) can transform to expenditures in the other (ex. in the social sector).

Integration without care co-ordination cannot lead to integrated health and social policies – the example of Kent

One possible attempt to tackle this challenge is the integrated social-health local policy in the Kent County Council in the UK. Through integrated health and social care services, the County Council try to tackle the most vulnerable persons, to put citizens in control (to have a choice) and in the meantime to generate economic growth. They set up integrated health and social care teams and try to involve people in self-care by creating the round table of social and health professionals. These round tables can realize shared decision making without costly institutional changes. Briefly: bringing people together without merging institutions.

The so-called Integrated Personal Budget is just an example to demonstrate an innovative method of saving: instead of providing free healthcare in the state system, the County provides the patients with the appropriate financial sources so that the patients have the possibility to change the desired healthcare service-provider which is the most appropriate for their need. In other words: give money to the people to bring more flexibility in the system.

Another new and useful element of the integrated care is the inclusion of new Referral Points (Single Points of access) to the system. Another viable solution may be setting up Integrated Care Centres which can be stepping stones between Hospital and Home.

There are however legal barriers due to the respective data protection rules. In some cases, the social institutions are not allowed to handle sensitive health data. Nevertheless, without appropriate data legislation, no integrated care will be possible.

The desired outcome of all these policies is finally an improved co-ordination of care through bringing together people and sustained change and better outcomes for patients and service users.

Ageing well

In the light of the rapidly increasing care budget, innovation is urgently required. Since financial resources are limited due to the economic crisis, only innovation can bring the required cost-efficiency into the system while maintaining the high level of social and health services. Either the European Commission’s so called Innovation Union project or the Joint Research Centre (JCR) are flagships in that innovation project, in the general framework of the Europe 2020 strategy.

This is the first attempt to bring together interested parties from public and private sector to deliver innovative solutions for an ageing society. New Knowledge, Proven Ideas, New Solutions, Evidence and Innovation Guidelines and Development Support are key words which may lead to an active and healthy ageing partnership.

The main areas are the followings: addressing major age-related chronic-diseases, innovation in integrated care delivery systems, innovation in independent living and social conditions, etc.

What are the main obstacles to innovation? Patents, lack of standards, end users (patients, caregivers) resistance to new ideas, lack of training, unclear regulation, lack of evidences of benefits, different priorities for funding bodies, scattered evidences, partial funding of innovation, etc.

Nonetheless, each political choice has an ethical dimension.
Why Research & Innovation is so important? Because an evidence based response is needed to these major challenges. The Joint Research Centre (JCR) examined in close co-operation with 12 countries (including the Institute of Sociology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) good practices across Europe. The impact on quality of life of those innovations were on the very centre of these studies. The involvement of end users (patients, caregivers) and of the political decision makers is also needed and there is a meaningful role for volunteers (NGOs, civil society) to play.

Un jour, tout le monde sera aidant

Soit vous êtes déjà un aidant (1) soit des futur aidants(2) ou membre de la famille d’un aidant (3). Mais un jour, nous aurions aussi besoin d’aide(4).

Les ’aidants’ sont les gents qui s’occupent des personnes vulnerables (les personnes âgées, malades) chez eux. Dans la plupart des cas, ils sont membres de la famille. Le model du région Val de Marne en France a bien montré qu’ils peuvent créer des fortes communautés entre eux qui peut aider les aidants beaucoup et les supporter pour lutter des défis psycologiques (97% d’entre eux n’avais pas besoind d’une aide professionelle d’un psychologue). 60% des aidants sont des femmes, 57% d’entre eux sont plus que 50 ans et l’âge moyen est 64 ans. « Mais vous ne recontrerez jamais un(e) aidant(e) général(e). »

La nouvelle téchnologie est très important pour eux et les innovations peuvent aider ses travaux (même les personnes âgées peuvent utiliser sans difficulté les tablettes simplifiées pour parler avec ses parents lointaines), mais la dimension humaine est beaucoup plus importante. L’idée essentielle est que les aidants eux- même peuvent organiser ses activités communes. Comme ça, ils peuvent avoir de temps en temps quelques heures libres qui ne sont qu’un souffle mais qui peuvent signifier quand-même beaucoup. « Quand la dente va bien, les dentes vont mieux. »

Cette communauté locale se base sur la communautélocale où ces aidants livent. Ils organisent des ateliers, et l’association est active sur facebook aussi. « Si tu veux que les hommes et les femmes construisent un bateux ne donne ni des outils ni des matériaux pour eux mais fait naître dans le coeur des hommes et femmes le désir du mer. »

En même temps, il faut voir que dans le passé, le model de nôtre sociétés ont été différent. Tant que les générations différentes ont vécu ensembles auparavant, la solidarité de la famille se disparu aujourd’hui et la carrière individuelle est devenue plus important que la famille.

Brief conclusions of the 4 workshops:

1. Supporting independent living elderly and their informal carers
This subject was very emotional and closely related to socio-economic changes. The proportion of the shared burden by families and the government needs a political decision.
(See also the French part of this blog entry.)

2. Living independently better, longer and safer: technology can help, but how to implement?
Technologies can really help and the manufacturers of the different devices can contribute to this. However, a complete strategy must be set up.

3. Autonomy, empowerment and dignity in residential care
In respect of residential care, the right balance between the proximity and the autonomy can be the key aspect. The more independent are the residents the more money we save. But one thing is sure: regardless the amount of money spent to the system, the same number of caregivers will be needed.

4. Persons with disabilities or ethnic background
Since these groups are very special, an individual/person entered approach can contribute the most. “When you want to go fast you have to go slow.” People with different backgrounds need simple more time to get in touch. It is always very difficult for elderly people to be honest when they say what they really need. Although social care is a question of money social services cannot be available only for those who can pay for it. The voluntary and professional care can co-operate and complement each other. Since the structures for fund allocations are very complicated, some simplification and flexibility is needed. Avoiding labelling money may also contribute to better adapt the health and social sectors to the different target groups.

Szociális ágazati innováció és a független életvitel lehetőségei

2012. június 13-án (szerdán) került megrendezésre Brüsszelben a Flamand Régió Tájékoztatási Irodája (Belgium) és a Kent Megyei Tanács (Nagy-Britannia) közös szervezésében a „Szociális ágazati innováció és a független életvitel lehetőségei” konferencia, amelyen a résztvevők az öregedő társadalom demográfiai tükrében keresték a lehetséges megoldásokat az idősek és ápolásra szorulók számára.

Mivel a gazdasági válság kedvezőtlenül érinti a nagy ellátórendszerek (egészségügy, szociális ágazat) költségvetési helyzetét, ezért a megfelelő megoldás a rendelkezésre álló források hatékonyabb felhasználása lehet, amelyben kulcsszerepet tölt be az innováció. A szociális és egészségügyi ellátások összehangolása, és az érintett szakértők folyamatos együttműködése révén elkerülhetőek a koordináció hiánya miatti többletkiadások, duplikációk és jelentős pénzügyi tartalékok szabadíthatóak fel.

A konferencia résztvevői rámutattak arra, hogy a méltányos és egészséges időskor a társadalom valamennyi tagját érinti, és generációk közötti szolidaritást igényel. A cél az, hogy az emberek a lehető legtovább eredeti lakóhelyükön maradhassanak, amelyet különösen az épített külső és belső környezet megfelelő ki- és átalakításával lehet elérni. Mivel a megfelelő lakókörnyezet kialakítása elsősorban a helyi lakókörnyezetet érinti, ezért mind a helyi önkormányzatok, mind az önkéntes civil kezdeményezések aktív szerepvállalása rendkívül fontos.

A modern technikai eszközök nagymértékben megkönnyítik a gondozás eredményességét, de még ennél is fontosabb az emberi tényező. Mivel az ápolást végző családtagok számára az ápolás nemcsak fizikailag, de lelkileg is rendkívüli igénybevételt jelent, ezért az ápoló családtagok által létrehozott öntevékeny közösségek rendkívüli mértékben hozzájárulnak a terhek enyhítéséhez és a lelki egyensúly megőrzéséhez.

A konferencián a szociális ágazati szakemberek mellett a Bizottság és a Közös Kutatási Központ szakemberei bemutatták, hogy az Európai Unió miként járul hozzá a megfelelő tudományos háttér biztosítása, és a különböző finanszírozási formák révén a sikeres innováció elősegítéséhez.

Miként Jo Vandeurzen flamand népjóléti miniszter záróbeszédében összegezte, a politikai döntéshozók feladata helyi és országos szinten egyaránt a megfelelő szabályozási környezet kialakítása annak érdekében, hogy biztosítsák a hatékony infrastrukturális feltételeket a megfelelő innovációs megoldások kidolgozásához és alkalmazásához.

PS: Study and Questionnaire on the use of new technologies in the field of services to individuals.

In the margin of this conference, the noble idea of a study was presented jointly by VLEVA and the ’Pour la Solidarité’ NGO. This questionnaire examines the impact of technologies on the beneficiaries, the worker, and notably in terms of quality of service, quality of life (well-being, autonomy) and professionalization. In order to complete the study, they developed a questionnaire intended primarily for structures supplying home care services. Through this questionnaire, we wish to study practices, experiences and obstacles towards a wider use of ICTs in local services. This questionnaire is mainly aimed at structures offering services to individuals.

Questionnaire in 3 languages: ENGLISHFRENCHDUTCH

« Questionnaire : L’utilisation des nouvelles technologies dans les services à la personne
Il existe un nombre important de personnes en situation de dépendance (personnes âgées, personnes handicapées…). De plus en plus de personnes souhaitent rester chez elles aussi longtemps que possible dans de bonnes conditions. Les budgets des soins résidentiels sont en outre sous pression à cause du changement démographique. Les Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (TIC) ainsi que les avancées technologiques dans certains secteurs comme la domotique favorisent le maintien à domicile des personnes ainsi que leur autonomie. Toutefois, l’utilisation des TIC reste marginale et peu systématique dans ce domaine. Via cette liste de questions, nous souhaitons enquêter sur votre pratique, vos expériences et les obstacles à une utilisation plus répandue des TIC dans les services de proximité.
Ce questionnaire s’adresse en particulier aux structures qui offrent des services aux personnes. L’enquête est diffusée au niveau international dans le but de comparer les expériences. Elle ne s’inscrit en effet pas dans le cadre d’une recherche avec des ambitions scientifiques. L’objectif étant davantage de collecter des indicateurs sur les technologies les plus utilisées dans les services de proximité ainsi que sur les obstacles rencontrés par les structures dans leur implémentation, dans différents pays européens. En répondant au questionnaire ci-dessous, vous contribuez largement à la réalisation de notre étude. Vos bonnes pratiques seront en effet partie intégrante de notre publication. »

I remain at your disposal.

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Related earlier EU Hemicycle updates:

22. Social Security Systems and the Financial Crisis

3. The Coordination of Social Security Systems in the EU – Legal Analysis


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  1. The original comment has been made to the earlier version fof the blog and it has been copied without any changes from here:

    “6/15/2012 4:12:22 PM – Zoltán MASSAY-KOSUBEK,,

    thank you very much for your comment.

    If I understood correctly you want to get in contact with the organizers of the conference.

    If this is the case, may I recommend you to contact the following persons:

    Drs. Lien VAN MALDEREN –


    Mr. Jos Sterckx –

    If you have further questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

    Best regards,


    Mr Zoltán MASSAY-KOSUBEK – EU policy expert”

  2. The original comment has been made to the earlier version fof the blog and it has been copied without any changes from here:

    “6/20/2012 12:20:08 PM – FR. CHARLES OPENYTHO,, nil
    I am Rev. Fr. Charles Openytho, I would like to partnership with you especially with disabled persons. Right now Am helping to sponsoring 30 orphans and vulnerable children through the donation of ASBL-EDUCATION SUPPORT PROJECT, which is Belgium government donation. They give us school fees,provide scholastic materials.But also many children are left out because of lack of fund.So if you can provide us with form, we shall be able to give you detailed of the project.We are operating under catholic church. Nebbi catholic Diocese.Therefore, kindly,could you provide us with the detail of your organization so that we can apply for our children. Thank you MR. Zoltan MSSAY.Am waiting to hear from you soon.”

  3. The original comment has been made to the earlier version fof the blog and it has been copied without any changes from here:

    “6/22/2012 8:25:40 AM – Zoltán MASSAYKOSUBEK,,

    thank you very much for your valuable comment and for your kind request.

    As regards the length of the entry, you’re right, sometimes I make longer analyses if the subject required a bit more. Having regard the fact that I attended a whole day meeting and I wanted to give an overview as clear as possible without forgetting any important details, this entry cannot be considered long enough. On the other hand, sometimes I make shorter comments as you can see my 26th entry about the G20 summits:…

    But thanks for your comment anyway.

    Concerning your special request I am willing to help you as much as I can. It is important to know that I am an individual health/environment/social security EU expert but I am intending to join some Brussel based organization soon. And in my professional network there are several players who may help, you as well.

    What I am suggesting is that you may send me as much information and we’ll see what can I do for to promote your activities.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me privately, as well.

    I remain

    Yours sincerely,

    Mr Zoltán MASSAY-KOSUBEK – EU policy expert
    Give a like to Zoltán’s EU BLOG on Facebook!

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