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Approximately 30% of people use some form of local authority-funded social care in their last year of life. Evidence suggests that any reduction in the availability of social care services might increase demand on hospital services (National End of Life Care Intelligence Network, 2012). For example, it is known from test sites around the country that financially modest, preventive social care services can help ensure that the home is a suitable environment for care, enabling more people to die there if that is their wish (Jones et al, 2012).
The National End of Life Care Programme’s (NEoLCP’s) Supporting People to Live and Die Well: a Framework for Social Care at the End of Life (NEoLCP, 2010) was the first step in setting out a direction for a way forward with regard to social care at the end of life. It includes objectives for achieving high-quality care for people who are dying, unconstrained by traditional boundaries between health and social care. A key objective of the framework is to strengthen the specialism of palliative care social workers. Such practitioners are a valuable resource to social workers in other settings, through consultation, education and training, as well as receiving referrals of patients and their relatives/loved ones as appropriate.
While specialist palliative care social workers still remain, shrinking numbers and redefined roles and functions have led to feelings that the specialism is under threat (NEoLCP, 2010). These factors have combined to produce a situation where social work support has all too often been missing from the package of care provided at the end of life (Clausen et al, 2005). That is despite evidence from service users of the value placed on the interventions of specialist palliative care social workers (Beresford et al, 2007).
Social work’s core values and skills
Crucially, social workers tend to work with individuals …
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