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A conversation with Chakir El Homrani, Minister for Employment, Social Affairs and Families

A conversation with Chakir El Homrani, Minister for Employment, Social Affairs and Families

This month we bring you an interview with the Minister for Employment, Social Affairs and Families, Chakir El Homrani, regarding the state of social inclusion, present and future challenges and how ICT can help in meeting our objectives.

Born in Barcelona on January 15, 1979, he holds a degree in Sociology from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, El Homrani’s career has been closely linked to Vocational Education and Training, having participating in the design of various VET qualifications linked to the water industry and the environment. In the fields of youth work and education, he has also headed socio-labour mediation projects aimed at the young. Currently on leave of absence -he has worked as a vocational training product manager for the Aqua Development Network since 2011.

 

As a member of Avalot – Joves de la Unió General de Treballadors (UGT) of Catalonia, El Homrani was their national secretary and spokesperson. While working with the youth organization he was the driving force behind the popular legislative initiative (PLI) in support of urgent measures for housing, the package of measures on youth employment in Catalonia and a petition calling for an increase in the minimum wage. He was also a member of the UGT’s National Committee and its National Council.

El Homrani is a member of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) and was a town councillor for Granollers City Council and a Member of the Parliament of Catalonia from 2015 to June 2018. He was a spokesman for the Working Committee and Rapporteur on the Minimum Wage Law for the Agència de Protecció Social de Catalunya. El Homrani is currently the Minister of Employment, Social Affairs and Families.

  • When we talk about the work of the Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs and Families, we are talking about the construction of social services capable of tackling issues related to social exclusion. What are the major problems that currently need to be addressed?

The recent crisis involving the arrival of young migrants with no family support needs to be dealt with, involving a rethinking of the protection system to better meet their needs. Putting into action and advancing with respect to the Minimum Wage Law [RGC in Catalan] and fighting to bridge the wage gap, are some of the most immediate challenges we are facing. The Ministry’s major objective is to empower people throughout their lives and put them at the centre of social and employment policies. We wish to put an end to a system of social protection aimed at particular groups or services. Our goal is to ensure that a change in someone’s circumstances doesn’t mean they drop out of one particular protection system while waiting to enter a new one. Social services ought to provide continuous healthcare, with no gaps between social interventions, in order to ensure that an individual can concentratee on fulfilling their true potential.

  • So it’s about helping and accompanying excluded groups towards inclusion and developing their full potential? What are the sector’s most pressing needs at an operational level? Both for professionals and for the public.

One of the major objectives of the entire protection system is strengthening preventive services. With the ministry’s support, and within the framework of a new Strategic Plan for social services, we are offering local entities the 2017- 2019 Program Contract, to jointly create the possibility of expanding basic social assistance teams by over 30%. We are working on concrete measures for the new 2020-2023 Program Contract to provide more, improved mechanisms and professional support for professionals in these teams, who have been put under a lot of pressure as a result of the socioeconomic crisis.

We ought to ensure our professionals work to strengthen people’s empowerment and autonomy, by working with the community, in order that people can fulfil their true potential, with the emphasis on providing care in people’s usual environment, rather than using institutional solutions, which disrupt the community.

As a result, we must strengthen the primary network by building genuine primary care based on social services. Preventing rather than reacting to social emergencies. Empowering rather than creating chronic problems.

  • Should social welfare and health care services work as a single integrated service for the individual? In political terms, what is required in order to obtain such services with regard to efficiency and efficiency?

The Catalan integrated healthcare model aims to meet people’s needs, counting on them, taking into account their preferences, needs, perceptions and expectations, offering them a comprehensive, multidimensional service that guarantees the continuity of care, from a commitment to their rights and duties, through to a plan of thoughtful care jointly provided by all the professionals involved in the process and provided in such a way that everyone involved, the caregivers the recipients and their family perceive it as a unique service that responds to the health or social needs which they themselves or their immediate environment are unable to satisfy.

To this end, the Catalan government’s Interdepartmental Plan for Healthcare and Social Interaction, PIAISS, is intended as the tool to promote and lead the transformation of our social and healthcare model.

We are currently working on four specific fronts: integrated care in the home, community and neighbourhood; information systems in order to move ahead in terms of interoperability between systems, based on shared clinical and social history; the field of mental health; and improvements in residential healthcare.

  • What is the Third Sector’s role in terms of social inclusion?

Social entities have a lot to say about this issue. I believe in teamwork, coordination and consultation with social agents to ensure we have the best social policies for our country.

  • What part can technology play in terms of social care?

The PIAISS is also a strategic tool for developing the joint application of ICT in the areas of health and social welfare, in order to have a more efficient, fair and sustainable system in a complex environment such as the current one we live in.

We are aware that the health system has been operating for a lot longer than the social services system from a technological point of view. So if we want to keep up to date with the challenges we are facing as an EU member, we have no choice but to face up the challenges presented by ICT.

Nevertheless, we are also working on the deployment of the Agència Catalana de Protecció Social as an instrument for ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of social policies in Catalonia, focusing on the necessary technological and digital transformation of social protection. As a result of this digital transformation, we are working on the deployment of the new eSocial management system that will allow us to deploy the first 100% digital services this year.

We are also working to promote the digitization of the Department’s management , the facilitation of social intervention through ICT and making all the relevant information that is generated within the Social Services System available to universities and research groups via the Generalitat de Catalunya’s Open Data Platform.

  • Could you give us a couple of examples of success in the field of ICT applied to the social sector?

In the field of care homes for the elderly, through PIAISS, we are encouraging the integration of information systems, so that health professionals in care homes can acquire new competencies. And one of these is accessing and using the Estació Clínica d’Atenció Primària [Primary Care Clinic Workstation] (eCAP) to facilitate patient clinical data management and support clinical decision-making with a high level of safety and quality of care. We have started this project in public care homes and our own management, with the objective of offering it to every care home in Catalonia.

Other examples which work well are the changes we’ve made to the 112 app for refugees and those with a hearing disability. And obviously the Youth Card app, which is one the Generalitat’s app with the most downloads.

  • How can technology help to achieve these goals? And what’s the Fundació TIC Salut Social’s role?

The creation and implementation of the Agència Catalana de Protecció Social is a key element in improving the efficiency of one of the key aspects of labour and social policies in Catalonia. The Agency is a means of providing us with an instrument of comprehensive management of social protection to gain administrative efficiency in order to contribute to efficiency and social benefits. The Agency is intended to act as an important mechanism to carry out the transformation of the management of social protection in Catalonia. It will require the implantation of a new IT system and we will work for the digital transformation of social protection, which not only calls for the computerization of processes and the sharing of information, but also for a wider transformation in numerous areas of the Ministry.

The model which we at the Agency propose is the simplification of procedures, reducing the interaction processes which the patient must pass through to solely the delivery phase, and a high degree of automation and data sharing to save both the patient and the public employees the time spent on dealing with applications and processing benefits. The Agency ought to support the public in achieving electronic processing in full, managing their file in a completely digital format and reducing the procedures that public employees and patients have to go through to manage the benefit system.

And like all of the Ministry’s projects, we want to promote it by taking advantage of the strength of our social environment and local organisations. In fact, organisations exactly like the Fundació TIC Salut Social, with their expertise in these issues, are invaluable collaborators in this endeavour.

Meanwhile, we ought to make even better use of our employees’ talents. They are making continuous improvements to the social intervention system and these ought to be shared. To this end, the Ministry’s Systems Plan needs to be updated, because, besides digitalising the benefit system, we can extend it to social care processes. Meanwhile, we also need to overhaul the Ministry’s Research and Innovation Plan, in conjunction with universities, research centres, businesses, the third social sector and public administration. We have the necessary capacity to promote social and employment knowledge and incorporate research and innovation into our services.

  • Within the ICT field, social media is free, prmoties the creation of communities and make non-newsworthy aspects visible. Do we need to transfer this concept to social care as a means of creating equal opportunities? Where do we have to concentrate our efforts to achieve this goal?

We need to further promote the proximity of users to the services they have at their disposal, and new technologies are obviously helping to facilitate this proximity.

For a long time, the social services system has been working towards providing services in the home environment. Lately in the field of healthcare it has become clear that the patient at home, in contact with their primary relational environment, recovers much better. Therefore, everything that increases the possibility that can someone can remain in their home, is considered a much more effective solution. A desirable outcome is how we can integrate telemedicine, home care and technological services and support at home under the umbrella of advanced teleassistance as a basic means to promote people’s autonomy. At present technology provides many solutions for monitoring and support for individuals and for helping families. What we need, therefore, is ensure that provision networks and back-office social and health systems coordinate with each other and are able to universalize and consolidate these advances.

  • Do you see Serious Games or gamification as therapeutic tools and means of r aising awareness in the social sector?

They’re another tool. To give an example, at the Ministry we created El joc dels drets, the Rights Game, in order that children and adolescents learn about their rights and duties in a playful and dynamic way. And in areas such as active aging, dependency and family care – to name a few – it’s a resource that needs to be explored.

 

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