Action needed in Scotland to help terminally ill homeless people

Last week, Ed Davey introduced a Bill which, if it passes, would ensure that terminally ill people who are homeless are given the housing and end of life care to ensure that they die with as much dignity and comfort as possible.

Ed’s bill only applies to England. I thought I would have a look at what happens in Scotland. I’d thought that things would be much better north of the border, but they aren’t.

A Marie Curie Scotland briefing to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee’s inquiry into homelessness makes me very worried:

It is clear that that providing both specialist and general palliative care for homeless people is complicated and challenging and at present not every homeless person living with a terminal illness is getting the care they need.

The Scottish Government needs to ensure that research is done urgently so that appropriate action can be taken to fill the gaps in care.

The Marie Curie briefing outlines where the problems lie. It is not easy for homeless people to access palliative care:

Access to hospices and care homes is very rare for homeless people living with a terminal illness. A lack of any fixed abode makes it difficult, if not impossible for community palliative care teams to meet the needs of homeless people. The only possibility may be through a hostel, a setting in which can be very difficult to deliver care and not necessarily set up for end of life and palliative care. Many staff in hostels will not have the training and support they need to support someone at the end of life, despite in many reported instances of going ‘above and beyond’ in their roles. Education and support in line with the NHS Education for Scotland and Scottish Social Services Council Palliative and End of Life Care framework should be made available to hostel staff.

They recommend a “housing first” approach:

There needs to be a ‘Housing First’ approach for those homeless people living with a terminal illness with fast tracked support, which is appropriate to their needs. Wherever this is possible, and is appropriate, this should include permanent accommodation. A full package of health and social care should be in place from the point of need following the introduction of housing support. Neither should be an add-on to the other, but must work together. Any housing used to support someone with a terminal illness must be of a high quality in order to ensure that the person can receive the care that they need there in an appropriate environment.

We should not ever assume that there is a safety net to protect people when they are at their most vulnerable. Ending  hardship and poverty is what drives us as Liberal Democrats and situations like this remind us of why it’s so important to do so.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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2 Comments

  • Peter Martin 17th Feb '18 - 9:06pm

    As always it comes down to wanting more money for the NHS and social services. We are always asked “But where is the money going to come from? Have you done a properly costed analysis which has been audited by the Office of Budget Responsibility”

    If the government decides to build a new aircraft carrier, or fund the development of a new jet fighter or whatever, those awkward questions are never asked. Instead we are told how many jobs will be created.

  • @ Caron “ensure that terminally ill people who are homeless are given the housing and end of life care to ensure that they die with as much dignity and comfort as possible.”

    It’s not just the terminally ill, it’s all homeless people – and don’t forget homelessness is more than just rough sleepers.

    You also say, ” The Scottish Government needs to ensure that research is done urgently so that appropriate action can be taken to fill the gaps in care”.

    The stats are available :
    Housing and homelessness statistics – Shelter Scotland
    https://scotland.shelter.org.uk/housing…statistics/homelessness_facts_and_research

    Scottish Homelessness Statistics – The Scottish Government
    http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Housing-Regeneration/RefTables

    It’s not the stats that are needed – it’s the will.

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