The Covid 19 pandemic is an unprecedented event in the lives of most people today. It is an extreme challenge because its reach knows no boundaries and it does not distinguish between any members of society. Our way of life has altered dramatically in these past weeks as more and more citizens go into ‘lockdown’ and more become ill across Europe. Aside from the widespread risk to health, the social and economic elements of life are being severely damaged already and the fall-out from this will likely last for a considerable period of time. All vulnerable groups are at high risk from this fall-out.
The European Council stated on the 26th March that meeting this challenge ‘requires urgent, decisive, and comprehensive action at the EU, national, regional and local levels.’ The Council also stated that it ‘will do everything that is necessary to protect…citizens and overcome the crisis.’
IFSW Europe supports the European Council’s pledge to organise a coordinated response to this crisis and calls on the Council and other European Union bodies to act immediately. The IFSW welcomes the European Commission’s recent moves to support countries, but stresses that the response must be inclusive of all people and groups within Europe so as to ‘leave no one behind’. Human rights and social justice matters must remain at the forefront of all efforts in confronting this unprecedented event.
Particular emphasis must be given to those who are most at risk in our societies including children, older people, people with disabilities, those with underlying health and mental health problems, people who are homeless, and now more than ever, women vulnerable to domestic violence and the refugee or migrant.
IFSW Europe recognises that across Europe governments and people are struggling. The health systems in all countries are under enormous pressures and social workers and other health and social care professionals are doing heroic work in responding to people’s medical and social needs. Indeed, solidarity is also being shown across Europe in, for example, the large numbers of people who are volunteering to support those individuals and families who are in need.
Social protection systems, where social workers play an essential role, have also come under enormous strain as unemployment increases hugely and high numbers of people become ill. These systems too must be adequately resourced to meet this catastrophe now and into the future.
IFSW Europe salutes social workers and all other frontline workers who put themselves at risk in this crisis to support people in need.
When this crisis is overcome, as it no doubt it will be, then there must be a rethink on the place of public health and social protection systems in all countries of Europe. This review must focus on the principle that people really do matter more than anything else – the social must balance the economic. There must also be a re-focus in a manner that gives real meaning to ‘leaving no one behind’. The principles in the European Pillar of Social Right, above all, must be at the heart of the future of Europe.
Ana Rădulescu – President
John Brennan – Vice-President
International Federation of Social Workers Europe 02 April 2020