The Association of Palliative Care Social Workers, originally the Association of Hospice Social Workers, was proposed by a small group of practitioners in 1986 and established in 1987. Our first Chair, Elizabeth Earnshaw-Smith, was a pioneer, and under her leadership, the association set out to support each other so that together they could effect change for the people that they were working with, and grow their work wherever they were employed.
Their vision was to uphold core social work values within palliative care and better promote the needs and wishes of clients, and their families and carers within their organisations, locally and nationally. They were opportunists and took advantage of whatever came along. One huge achievement was their lobbying of parliament to change the law, and establish the ‘special rules’ for terminally ill patients applying for Disability living allowance and attendance allowance, still benefiting people today.
The Association’s regional structure emerged early on, and members met together for mutual support and to share knowledge and experience. On the strength of their success and the quality of their work, new palliative care social work posts were developed, and the membership grew.
Today the Association stands on the shoulders of these giants and those that came after them. At the 2014 National Conference, members heard with amazement from Julia Franklin, one of the founding members, that just a few social workers meeting over cucumber sandwiches at a London hotel managed to effect change at a national and international level. She said ‘we were like the blind leading the blind and opportunists mostly, doing what we could from where we were’. Her exhortation was to take up the baton; to carry on and keep going.