Why Scotland must harness the compassion of local people to support dying people better

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Policy.

Scotland’s ageing population means that many more people will need end of life care over the coming decades.

The pandemic has given us insight into what increased demand for palliative support could look like, and it’s clear that our services need to be better equipped. But it’s also shown that we have a powerful tool at our disposal: the dedication of our communities.

The demand for end-of-life care is increasing

By 2040, 10,000 more people in Scotland will be dying each year, in need of palliative and end of life care.

By then a greater proportion of people will be dying in the community, with two thirds of all deaths expected to take place in people’s homes, care homes and hospices rather than in hospital.

Support for dying people in communities across Scotland must be reformed if we are to keep up with the growing need. Even today with the current number of deaths, many people aren’t getting the right care.

Without decisive action, many more people will die without vital care and support at the end of life.

But it’s not all doom and gloom…

Over the last few years, the community spirit in Scotland has shone through.

At the start of the pandemic, record numbers of people in Scotland lined up to help people in their local communities, many of whom were affected by dying, death and bereavement.

They picked up shopping for vulnerable neighbours. They volunteered to support the vaccination rollout. They offered a friendly ear for those who were isolating or feeling lonely or grieving for someone they cared about.

The power of that community spirit can’t be understated. It’s a valuable tool that can be used to support dying people not just during the pandemic, but beyond.

But without properly resourced systems in place, all that dedication and compassion will be wasted. That’s why we’re calling for all Scottish Local Election candidates to harness the resources and compassion of local people by embedding compassionate communities   in their local areas.

Scottish people have shown that they want to help one another, and local councils have a responsibility to ensure that can happen.

 What is a compassionate community?

Compassionate communities is a social movement where local people support others who are affected by dying, death and bereavement. They are networks of volunteers that works alongside formal services.

For example, a local person might volunteer to do food shopping for a neighbour who can’t leave the house or provide companionship to someone living alone with a terminal illness. This support can make a huge difference to the person who receives it, while complementing the work of formal palliative care services.

Read more about compassionate communities  , which already exist in some areas in Scotland, and their networks  .

Compassionate Inverclyde   was set up in 2017 and quickly evolved from a small local initiative to a wider social movement.

A team of 135 volunteers supported their community in all sorts of ways, from offering companionship to people who might have otherwise died alone, to providing boxes of essentials to people leaving hospital, to running awareness sessions at local schools.

How can I make my local area a compassionate community?

Scottish people have shown that they want to help one another, and local councils have a responsibility to ensure that can happen.

If you believe in the power of helping those affected by dying, death and bereavement in your community, ask your local council election candidates standing in May’s elections to embed a compassionate community in your area.

Simply share this blog with them if you see them out canvassing for votes or ask them to email ellie.wagstaff@mariecurie.org.uk for more information.

Read more about harnessing the compassion of local communities to better support dying people in our 2022 Local Government Elections Manifesto


Published by Marie Curie and reprinted here with permission

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