‘Not Patients But Citizens with Rights’ is the current European Care Certificate (ECC) project that the Association for Real Change is involved with and it is the third European project we have been part of thus far.

The European Care Certificate (ECC) is a Europe-wide qualification that has been developed to cover the basic knowledge that is required for an individual to work in a health and social care setting. An individual can gain the ECC by completing the ECC exam, (a multi-choice exam that can be taken online or as paper version). On successful completion, the ECC Certificate will be evidence that a worker has covered the Basic European Social Care Learning Outcomes (BESCLO) which are recognised across the ECC partner countries.

The first ECC project was a LEONARDO funded project about setting up the ECC and establishing agreed standards, i.e. the ‘Basic European Social Care Learning Outcomes’ (BESCLO) agreed by all partners.

The second ECC project was a LEONARDO funded project about expanding the number of countries involved to 16.

This current ECC project is called ‘Not Patients But Citizens with Rights’ and is about sharing a basic training course to deliver the ECC to front-line staff and to develop a Train the Trainer course for trainers delivering the ECC to staff, and to recruit three new countries into the ECC Partnership. This is a two-year project started in 2012 and set to be completed in 2014.

The project ‘kicked off’ with three days of  meetings in November 2012 where the representatives of the countries involved all met in England, with the Association for Real Change acting as host. The meetings were a great success with an outline of what the Training Course for delivering the ECC established, along with an outline for the Train the Trainer course. Whilst managing to get all of the planned work completed in the three days, we also managed to introduce the partners to the delights of an English Country Pub and the rich history of English heritage with Chesterfield ‘s ‘crooked spire’ and the nearby Chatsworth House and Park.

The draft version of both the Training Course and Train the Trainer course were completed by January 2013 and distributed to each partner country who then had them translated into an indigenous language.

On completion of translation each country was to run a pilot training of each course and would feedback to the next full partners meeting in June 2013.


I have recently returned from the June meeting, which was held in Turga Mures, Transylvania, Romania where the main focus was the feedback from the pilot training and planning the rest of the project. As I have not travelled to many countries I was quite excited about the prospect of going to Transylvania!

On the first day our meeting was to feedback on the pilot Training Course and Train the Trainer course delivery – this was extremely positive, with 10 countries having successfully delivered the pilot courses. The remaining countries hope to be completing shortly.

I am now working on the completion of some minor changes and amendments resulting from the pilots; these will be incorporated into a new draft which will be sent out to all partners in early August for continuation of the training and a second round of pilot courses.

Whilst in Romania we were hosted by the ‘Alpha Foundation’, which provides services for children, young people and adults with learning disabilities in the Turges Mures. We were given a tour of their service and at lunch time were entertained by their resident singing group, comprised of individuals using the Alpha Foundation’s services – it was excellent.

On our evening off we were taken to visit the village of Sighisoara where the ‘real’ Dracula was born, who was the son of ‘Vlad the Impaler’ (also known as Vlad Tepes). It was fascinating to find out about the complex history of the town, and the country, but we did not come across any ‘vampires’!

Impact of the ECC

All the partners involved in the ECC have reported the excellent impact that the initiative is having, particularly in those countries where the social model of disability and the human rights based approaches are new ways of working. The ECC is an excellent tool to introduce these new ways of working to staff when they first start to work in a service.

In England, where we have the Common Induction Standards that all new workers in Health and Social Care have to complete, the ECC may not seem as relevant. However, at ARC, we have thought about this and have ensured that all of our training materials cover the Common Induction Standards (CIS) and the ECC. This means that any workers who complete our Induction training will have covered the English requirements of the CIS and can go on to sit the ECC Exam and gain their European Care Certificate. This will then be accepted across the European countries. Two areas covered in one!

Other work promoting the ECC

Last year I was also involved in a further piece of work in Europe, funded by the Council of Europe, which was about delivering a Human Rights based approach to social care using the ECC. This was called ‘Getting the Basics Right in Care’ and included delivering a 3-day training course to staff working in Health and Social Care in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The training was a pilot course that the Association for Real Change was running for the Council of Europe, which, if successful, was to be rolled out to other countries.

The training was successful and this year I was approached by the Council of Europe to deliver another ‘Getting the Basics Right in Care’ course, this time in Astrakhan in the Federation of Russia.

This was set up at the end of May and was delivered over 3 days by myself and a colleague, Janet Fairley. We flew to Astrakhan via Moscow the day before the training. We then went on to deliver the 3 day course to 50 health and social care workers. Despite informing the Ministry in Astrakhan that this course is aimed at new frontline staff, the 50 people on the course were mostly qualified and experienced workers. However, the Ministry explained that they wanted to ensure all of their managers were trained first so that the training could be disseminated throughout the workforce.

From Medical Model to Social Model

The delivery days were long and tiring as everything we delivered had to be translated by the interpreters working hard in their booth at the back of the room. The content of the course was also new to many of the workers, particularly with the change from the medical model of disability to the social model and the human rights based approach. However, the staff embraced the changes and 49 out of the 50 people on the course sat the ECC exam on the last day. All of the feedback from the people on the course was very positive.

The Ministry of Astrakhan arranged for us to visit a Children’s Service in the town. This was an excellent example of the positive changes that had taken place in local services in recent years. The people of Astrakhan were very hospitable and showed Janet and I many of the interesting parts of their town, including their Kremlin and the Volga River. Astrakhan is based on the Volga, just before it splits into the delta on the Caspian Sea and is famous for sturgeon, catfish and caviar. We were informed that it is important in Russian culture that no individual leaves a table feeling hungry, so we were given many meals and lots of different foods and traditional dishes to try including ‘borscht’ (a beetroot soup), catfish, sturgeon and various types of caviar.

On our return to England I processed their ECC exam papers and there are 32 people who passed their ECC exam, equating to a pass rate of almost 65%, – slightly above the European average of 62.4%.

The training was well received by the Ministry of Astrakhan who welcomed us and supported the delivery of this training. The feedback from those on the course was very positive and individuals said it would impact positively on their daily practice, hoping it would improve their work with people with disabilities.

We hope to continue this work for the Council of Europe and the Human Rights based approaches to health and social care that impacts directly on the lives of those people with a disability who use services. Discussions are currently taking place for possible delivery of this training in Moldova in 2014.

Shirley Potter
Head of Workforce Development