Interview with a member of the EQUASS Awarding Committee: Dirk Jarré, EURAG
Dirk Jarré is the president of EURAG, the European Federation of Older Persons, which is the oldest transnational non-governmental organisation being created by and for older persons in 1962, 53 years ago.
When did you first come to learn about the EQUASS quality system for social services of the European Platform for Rehabilitation?
Well, in early 2009 EURAG was asked to participate in an open workshop of the European Commission financed “Prometheus Project”, under the leadership of the European Platform for Rehabilitation, that had for mission to describe a Common Quality Framework for Social Services of General Interest in terms of quality principles as well as the core criteria for quality insurance. Having already worked professionally on various issues of social services, I represented EURAG in this process. Together with the European Committee for Standardisation, CEN, a large coalition of NGOs and public structures providing social services or representing users of such services cooperated in this project during one and a half years to come up, in September 2010, with a common definition for quality in social services to be used as a reference and basis for further quality initiatives in a large range of social service sectors. Interestingly the Social Protection Committee of the European Union later adopted most of the elements of these quality definitions in its recommendations to EU member states.
What elements of quality in social services are the most important to EURAG? What are the trends and recent developments in the requirements for quality in social services to older persons?
The most important aspect of social services for older persons is, from the point of view of EURAG, the unconditional respect and promotion of human dignity and the full recognition of human rights so that older persons are neither considered nor treated as objects of care but as fully respected receiving and co-determining partners of social services. On the other hand it is very important to understand that older persons constitute not simply a homogeneous group but that they are as diversified in their personalities, their needs and their abilities as all other groups of age. We consider that individuals at any age and in any situation have their specific potential that needs to be discovered, respected, maintained, promoted and valued. Quality social services endeavour to respond as much as possible to these differences in order to support people through respectful and understanding attitudes and action.
What has been your experience of EQUASS as a quality system along the years?
One of the outstanding features of EQUASS lies in the fact that it is, on the one side, based on a set of ten strong principles that, in a comprehensive interrelationship and by taking into consideration the potential and the specificities of all the stakeholders involved, determine the most important aspects of quality of social services to human beings in need. However, the criteria or indicators that are based on these principles to measure in an objective and traceable manner quality performance are not written in stone and thus rigid forever but undergo regularly a process of critical screening as to their validity and specific weight. According to socio-cultural developments, changing needs of service users and other changes in society they can be readjusted and completed.
What has always impressed me during all the years I have the privilege to serve on the EQUASS Awarding Committee is the fact that we have a continuous, frank and very constructive debate about the effectiveness of these criteria and indicators, reflecting on them according to our various and quite diverging personal and institutional backgrounds and experiences. This allows us to suggest systematic and operational modifications to the benefit of all stakeholders.
I find it also very important that the European Platform for Rehabilitation, the “owner” and thus responsible for EQUASS, has a very broad and admirably comprehensive understanding of social services and is interested in a large range of issues connected with the sector. Thus it has been a great honour for me to be asked twice to contribute key speeches to major EPR events, one “On Ethics in Rehabilitation” and the other one “On the Importance and the Scope of Impact Assessment”.
What advice would you give to an organisation providing services to elderly persons that is considering starting the process of implementing EQUASS?
It seems to me that the following three presuppositions must prevail to be successful in an EQUASS implementation process:
First: It must be absolutely clear that the dignity, the fundamental rights and the wellbeing of the person served are of paramount importance for the social service delivered to an individual.
Second: The declared objective must be to systematically and continuously improve the quality and the effectiveness of the services offered – and that EQUASS is seen as a guiding instrument to measure progress in the services’ outcome.
Third: All stakeholders must be involved in an on-going and respectful manner in order to allow them to invoke their various needs, their potential, their limitations and even their dreams to be adequately taken into account.