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New resource benefits people at end of their life

16 March 2016

new resource aims to ensure that people benefit from good social work at the end of their life, and that those close to them are supported during this time and into bereavement. 

"I think the most important support is time, the giving of time, people finding time for you, and the freedom to ask questions. Having someone independent to go to just to talk through and to say ‘I’m upset, I’m confused’ and just to gain reassurance, because it’s an awful thing to do, to have to take your loved one and leave them behind - a dreadful thing."(Bereaved husband in his sixties)

The role of social workers in palliative, end of life and bereavement care has been jointly produced by social workers and people with lived experience of end of life care. The resource sets out what palliative care social work is, the role and expertise of palliative care social workers and what palliative care social work can offer. It aims to help people who need palliative, end of life and bereavement care to understand how social work can help them. The resource also helps all social workers to be ready to support people who are dying or bereaved.

The resource finishes with actions that everyone can take to get the most out of social work at end of life and in bereavement.

Palliative, end of life and bereavement care matters to everyone. Around half a million people die each year in the UK.  All of us need to be supported to consider what will matter to us when we are at the end of our lives, to plan ahead and to live well until we die.

Social work has an important role in the delivery of meaningful palliative, end of life and bereavement care. Some social workers are palliative care social workers, working in services which specialise in this area of support. All social workers will encounter people who are experiencing the end of life or bereavement. 

Ensuring that everyone has a good life until they die and a good death must be everybody’s business. Social workers have an important contribution to make. This resources sets out what they can do, and how other agencies, employers and commissioners can support them to provide this.

The resource was developed by the Association of Palliative Care Social Workers in collaboration with the former College of Social Work. We worked with Making Waves Lived Experience Network/Open Futures Research to ensure that the resource is informed by the voices of people with lived experience. The resource is published by the British Association of Social Workers, the independent voice of social work in the UK and supported by Hospice UK.

'Palliative care offers a holistic approach to distress and loss. As a doctor working with those facing death, I know that teams are made immeasurably stronger through the inclusion of a palliative social worker. The expertise, skills and family centred approach that they offer is vital. Social workers need a much louder voice in palliative care and Hospice UK welcomes this valuable resource.’ (Dr. Ros Taylor MBE, Clinical Director at Hospice UK)

The resource is available here and also here

To find out more please contact: Gerry Nosowska 07828097515 or

About palliative care social work

Palliative care social workers specialise in working with adults and children who are at the end of their life, their families, those they are close to and their communities. They use their particular skills and knowledge to help people to cope with the impact of their situation, including loss and bereavement, and to have a good life and a good death. They work in partnership with people they offer support to. They work alongside other professions, agencies, organisations and as part of the wider community in which they are based. They bring social care expertise and perspective to situations in order to ensure that people get the support they need. Palliative care social workers may work in hospices or hospitals, in the community, or in prisons. 

Palliative care social workers are committed to the principle of living your life the way that you want to for as long as possible. They recognise and respond to the impact of diversity, disadvantage and discrimination on peoples’ situation. Palliative care social workers advocate strongly on behalf of dying people, unpaid carers, families, friends and communities to ensure that their needs are identified and met. 

Palliative care social workers have particular knowledge and skills that help them to support people. They contribute to joint work in a spirit of collaboration, with awareness of confidentiality, and with confidence in their professional standpoint. They help others to develop their skills and knowledge, and they support colleagues. 

About the Association of Palliative Care Social Workers

The Association of Palliative Care Social Workers is a membership organisation for palliative care social workers across the UK. We aim to raise the profile of palliative care social work; to support and advise all palliative care social workers wherever they work; to inspire excellence by sharing best practice; to promote high quality research and evaluation in order to continually improve end-of-life and bereavement care. 

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