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Report calls for more training on end-of-life care

Social workers need training in order to play a greater role in planning and delivering end of life care ahead of huge increase in the numbers of deaths each year, according to a major report published this week.

Supporting people to live and die well: a framework for social care at the end of life says people aged over 85 are now the fastest growing segment of the population and the number of deaths in this age group will rise by 17% between 2012 and 2030.

But social care staff, including experienced social workers, are daunted or may lack confidence in conversations about death and, although the majority of people wish to die at home, fewer than one in 10 do so.

Many people working in social care do not perceive end of life care as their responsibility and health professionals are unsure of the role of social workers and may therefore not make appropriate referrals.

The report, which sets out a framework for improving end of life care, has been developed by experts on a social care advisory board including Jeff Jerome, the national director of social care transformation, and chief executive of counsel and care Stephen Burke.

Its publication follows the National End of Life Strategy in 2008 and its development has been coordinated by the National End of Life Care Programme (NEoLCP). Among its recommendations are that more should be done to clarify the role of social work in end of life care and that the regulator, the General Social Care Council, should ensure the codes of practice reflect end of life issues.

BASW joint manager Ruth Cartwright said: “I have utmost respect for palliative care social workers who do a fantastic job working with individuals and their families to improve their quality of life and ensure that the time that is left is positive, and this is a skilled and valuable job.”

Owen Davies, head of policy and research at the GSCC, said: “As the social work regulator, we welcome measures designed to enable social workers to practise to the highest professional standards in all aspects of their role. The NEoLCP’s framework will provide social workers with an opportunity to better their knowledge and training and allow them to play a key role in improving end of life care.”