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Unemployed Germans Get Training to Work With Demented

A new German project to train long-term unemployed people to work with dementia patients has come under criticism from nursing care experts.

A hand on top of another old hand

The health care assistants will mainly keep dementia patients company

The ambitious scheme could create up to 10,000 new jobs for long-term unemployed people in the health care sector, who are getting basic training to look after dementia patients.

A new German law that was introduced on July 1 has freed up funds from Germany's nursing care system to pay for the positions. The German federal labor office has now started offering training courses for interested long-term unemployed, who receive some 160 hours of instruction to be able to work with patients.

They have to have been unemployed for at least 12 months and show an interest in working in a nursing home, according to a report in German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. After the training, they will be able to work as nursing care assistants, performing tasks such as reading to patients, talking with them or running errands for them.

A brazen proposal?

Geriatric care experts, who said that care assistants need to have at least 900 hours of training, were outraged by the proposal.

"To equate dementia with handicrafts, reading to people and walking them is brazen," Helmut Wallrafen-Dreisow, a member of the German Board for Geriatric Care. "The health care companies want to get things done cheap, but nursing homes are meant to fulfill highest standards. That doesn't work."

Dirk Niebel, a leading member of Germany's opposition free-market liberal Free Democratic Party called the move "labor-market policy charlatanism." Germany's unemployment figures have risen slightly after several years of steady decline.

"The fact that someone's unemployed alone is no qualification for a job in the health care sector," he told mass tabloid Bild am Sonntag.

Better than nothing?

Ulla Schmidt

Ulla Schmidt defends the plan

But German Health Minister Ulla Schmidt defended the project. She said that many people with dementia are currently cared for by volunteers, who have received no training whatsoever.

She also said that many of those interested in participating in the trainings already had experience working in the health care sector.

"For many unemployed people, a job in a nursing home is a chance to rejoin the old line of work," Schmidt told DPA news agency. "That's especially true for women." Experts doubt, however, that labor office officials will find enough people to fill the positions. According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 10,157 vacant positions are currently registered with the office nationwide -- despite the fact that some 30,000 health care workers are currently registered as unemployed.

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