Social workers help people with a life-limiting condition and their families by assisting with practical difficulties around social, financial and legal matters and by providing supportive counselling to assist adjustment to grief and loss.
Social workers support people to make change in their life to improve their personal and social wellbeing. They have knowledge of human behaviour and development, life cycle stages, families and social networks, disability and health, including mental health. Social workers may counsel people or be involved in advocacy, community engagement and social action to address issues at both the personal and social level. [1,2]
The Scope of Social Work Practice is available on the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) website.
Social workers may have roles of advanced or extended scope of practice which reflect a level of expertise within or beyond the established contemporary scope of practice. 
Petra van Vliet talks about her role as a family support worker in palliative care
Palliative care provides a support system for people living with a life-limiting condition to live as actively as possible, with dignity, for as long as possible. It is active and supportive care that seeks to maximise quality of life.  It is useful well before death and not limited to care of the dying. 
In helping people with palliative care needs, a social worker [5-8]:
Social workers may work in palliative care as only part of their role or have a palliative care caseload with a specialist role. This may be a member of a multidisciplinary team or a sole practitioner.
The National Association of Social Work in the US has identified Standards for Social Work Practice in Palliative and End of Life Care (120kb pdf).
Association of Palliative Care Social Workers - UK (APCSW) and The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has published The role of social workers in palliative, end of life and bereavement care (8.13MB pdf) (2016)
British Association of Social Workers has published BASW Position Statement – Social Work Support to people who are dying (116kb pdf) (2016)
The RACGP aged care clinical guide (Silver Book 2019) recognises the role of allied health professionals in team care arrangements for a proactive person-centred approach to palliative care.  Palliative Care Australia also recognises the importance of access to information and support from a diverse range of allied health services for patients, families and carers. 
The role of allied health in palliative care is to provide the person with as much therapy time as possible. The goal of allied health in palliative care is around maintaining and improving functional ability. There may be a blurring of roles across allied health professions in palliative care more than in other care contexts.
Allied Health workers provide care in all practice settings. For further information on the specific area of practice go to Practice Settings.
Useful evidence-based information and resources on rehabilitative palliative care are available from Hospice UK.
Although social workers are familiar with evidence and evidence-based practice through their training and continuing professional development (CPD), keeping up to date can be time-consuming.
CareSearch provides the tools to help find and use evidence. This includes PubMed searches on a multitude of topics and sections dedicated to Searching for Evidence and Using Evidence in Practice.
For support in applying evidence in practice, check out the Journal Club Basics page on CareSearch which provides information on the benefits of and practical pointers in setting up or joining a journal club.
The AASW Practice Standards 2013 outline the practice expectations of all social workers. They are designed to guide social workers to ensure they fulfil their professional practice responsibilities.
Guidelines specific to social work and palliative care in Australia have not been published, however, the Palliative Care Service Development Guidelines 2018 (332kb pdf) provides an overview of social work (as part of allied health) in palliative care. 
Social Workers have an important role in supporting patients, carers and their families with information. The CareSearch Resources for Patients, Carers & Families provides links to useful information including fact sheets and printable resources Social Workers can download and share.
The National Palliative Care Strategy 2018 lists as a priority the ability of medical, nursing and allied health graduates to identify and address people’s palliative care needs (Priority 2.1, p15).  This is also highlighted for the acute sector in the Guiding Principles of the National Consensus Statement: essential elements for safe and high-quality end-of-life care which also recognises the importance of the role of an interdisciplinary team. 
CareSearch lists a collection of Palliative Care eLearning resources for allied health for independent learning.
Visit palliAGED for Evidence and Practice Resources
Visit Palliative Care Social Work Australia
Access the Center to Advance Palliative Care's Toolkit for Social Workers in Palliative Care
Last updated 24 October 2023