In 2015 and 2017, large numbers of refugees fleeing war and persecution arrived in Europe hoping to build a better future for themselves. However, the obstacles they face when trying to rebuild their lives are numerous, from language barriers and bureaucratic processes to hostile attitudes from locals. These obstacles often compromise their chances of finding a job, a pre-requisite for successful socio-economic integration.
On the other hand, the health care systems in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are all struggling with an increasing shortage of qualified workers. The shortage of care staff in Europe is projected to worsen in the future as workers retire and fewer enter the profession. This is aggravated by an ageing population and the consequent increased need in care services.
The untapped potential of people with refugee status is lost while the demand for personnel in the care sector continues to grow. The ‘In de zorg, uit de zorgen’ (Into Care To Be Carefree) Interreg project aims to address both of these issues by developing training programmes to help refugees interested in a career in the healthcare sector develop the necessary skills. The training programme is specifically tailored for the health sector, and it includes language courses to teach the vocabulary of the sector as well as theoretical classes and 6-week on-field traineeships. Moreover, there are also activities aimed at providers and supervisors within the healthcare to positively influence their perspectives and encourage them to employ people with refugee status.
Eight project partners, mainly non-profit organisations involved in supporting refugees and elderly care, established a partnership led by Familiehulp, a home care services non-profit (BE).
Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany (Euregio Meuse-Rhine)
This 3-year project which closed in 2021 was co-financed in the framework of the Interreg V-A Euregio Meuse-Rhin with an ERDF contribution of about EUR 1,055,000. The investment falls under the priority “Promoting cooperation in education and training”.
The project had a target of 150 refugees and 150 care providers/supervisors. These figures were amply exceeded, with around 329 refugees and 429 care givers and supervisors reached. The partner organisations closely followed and mentored participants throughout the process, boosting their chances of being employed and thus deepening their integration in the host country.
The project also positively influenced both the refugees’ perception of the care sector as well as the perceptions of the health workforce and elderly people who received their care, resulting in mutual enrichment on a personal level, as well as on a professional one.
The partners also developed comprehensive guidelines and documented best practices which they shared at a conference to help others implement similar initiatives. In fact, the methodology of this project can be replicated in other regions and countries, not only at cross-border level, given that the shortage of health care workers is a problem common to many other European regions.