Ad-PHS project’s workshop in Malta
The EU-financed Ad-PHS Project, organised by UNI Europa – UNICARE, held its online workshop for Malta on 8 October. The meeting brought together employers, trade unions, academics from the University of Malta, civil society and service-users organisations.
Participants highlighted how the Maltese population has been ageing and to what extent this demographic change implies a changing culture around PHS service provision. Consequently, the country has relied on migrant workers coming to the island, in particular from the Balkans and the Philippines.
Marvin Formosa from the University of Malta’s Gerontology Department argued that the sector is in a very sorry state. One of the issues is that older people are always constructed as ‘patients’ rather than citizens with human rights. Unfortunately, the on-going Covid-19 crisis has re-medicalised the field.
The first session discussed professionalisation and skills in the PHS sector. One participant argued that the ageing population also means that persons’ care needs are becoming more complex. In order to provide quality person-centred care, home care workers need increased training. This also applies to those workers focused on caring for disabled persons. Furthermore, there is a need for standards and regulation to ensure that workers are declared. This needs to go hand in hand with increased resources for inspection and monitoring. One promising practice was CareMark’s Academy and their ‘hands-on’-approach to upskilling, which allows workers to receive a certified Level 3 training.
In terms of household services, the project meeting found that that sector’s structures remain mostly informal. Desk research had shown that there are Facebook groups counting thousands of people either looking for jobs as nannies and domestic cleaners or looking for such a person to work in their household. Unfortunately, the project meeting wasn’t able to win support from migrant organisations who are connected into the communities.
Meanwhile, many of the country’s policies have assisted families by offering school breakfasts and children being able to stay at school after the day has finished. While many PHS services remain free of charge, citizens often don’t have the information on how to access these.
In terms of social dialogue and collective bargaining, Riccarda Darmanin from the General Workers’ Union outlined that many PHS workers face difficulties taking leave and that they only approach the union when issues arise. The problem for the union is that they don’t know where all these workers are and they cannot reach all of them. At CareMark, workers are encouraged to join the GWU at their induction session. This has helped the company and union to solve issues with the governments of sending countries as well.
Going forward, participants are committed to launching a national PHS stakeholder group and identify common issues, such as undeclared work, that can be solved collectively. Participants also committed to organising information rights sessions, reaching out to religious organisations, building coalitions with local councils and politicians and approaching the Ministry of Family and Social Affairs.
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