The work done by St Mungo’s palliative care team has been featured in a new short film which highlights the overwhelming barriers faced by people experiencing homelessness in need of end of life care.
The film, ‘Homeless, young and dying: we can do better’, talks about the pressing need for specialist palliative care to change and improve the lives of thousands of people during the most vulnerable time of their lives. Alarmingly, the average age of death for a man living on the streets or in homeless accommodation is 45-years-old, and is even lower for women at just 43.
Introducing the film at an official launch event last week (19 November), Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham echoed the findings of the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping, which has called for homelessness to be seen as both a housing and a health issue. He addressed the need for society to do “better” and to ensure that people experiencing homelessness are not dying in “unsupported and undignified” circumstances.
St Mungo’s Palliative Care Coordinator Andrew Knee is interviewed in the film, alongside Senior Project Worker Deanna Gopaul and other leading voices in the sector from Groundswell, the Single Homeless Project and leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey MP.
The film also includes moving contributions from people with lived experience, such as hostel resident Robert ‘Bobby’ Cass, who was interviewed about his dying wishes, but sadly died less than a fortnight after filming.
Andrew Knee, Palliative Care Coordinator at St Mungo’s, said: “This film shines a spotlight on dying young in the homeless population – an endemic that is widely known by organisations like St Mungo’s, but rarely given much thought by those that have minimal or no experience working with this disadvantaged group. It highlights the inequalities of care, the barriers people face, and the impact that the right support can have to give people a better quality of life.
“I believe this project can help change the landscape of providing palliative care to people experiencing homelessness and reframe our ways of working towards holistic, person-centred care. I hope professionals who see the film will reflect on how they can make a positive change towards helping those in need.”
Steve Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said: “We know that people experiencing homelessness have worse health than most, yet they face considerable barriers in accessing the healthcare they urgently need. People’s health and housing situations are inextricably linked and, almost a fifth of St Mungo’s clients in emergency hotels during the pandemic were not registered with a GP when they moved in.
“This film highlights the compassion and care that the St Mungo’s palliative care team provides, and the similar work being done by others across the country, which enables our clients who are in need of end of life care to die with the dignity they deserve, and in accordance with their wishes and preferences. It is a call to action and a best practice guide for all health and social care professionals to ensure their services are inclusive, accessible and person-centred.”
The film, which was funded by St Ann’s Hospice in Greater Manchester and the National Lottery Community Fund, outlines several recommended ways of working to improve equity of end of life care for people experiencing homelessness including:
- Taking services to people via hospice outreach work, and in-reach to homeless sector services.
- Matching community hospices and palliative care teams with hostels to support more effective ways of working.
- Training staff to empower them to support clients.
- Offering palliative and end of life care as part of the wrap-around support offered via the Housing First
- Peer advocacy and working with clients who have complex needs to improve engagement with health services.
To watch the film, please visit: https://www.sah.org.uk/homelessfilm