good life, good death, good grief

Scottish Compassionate Communities Toolkit

What is a compassionate community?

Often, people talk about creating a compassionate community without having a specific definition in mind, referring more loosely to the importance of communities being close-knit and supportive, of neighbourliness, and building on individual acts of kindness by ordinary people.

However, this toolkit uses the term 'compassionate community' within the context of public health palliative care, where the term 'compassionate community' refers to something more specific. Within this toolkit we use 'compassionate communities' to describe communities that are compassionate in their support of people through the difficult times associated with care, deteriorating health, dying and bereavement.

Compassionate communities do not assume the formal service responsibilities of health and social care services - their role is different and complimentary. A compassionate community:

  • Recognises that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not simply a task solely for health and social services but is everyone's responsibility
  • Encourages, facilitates, supports and celebrates care for one another during life's most testing moments and experiences, especially those pertaining to life-threatening and life-limiting illness, chronic disability, frail ageing and dementia, grief and bereavement, and the trials and burdens of long term care.

When used in the field of public health palliative care, the term 'compassionate communities' carries inferences not just about he attributes of the community, but also about the methods used to create those communiites. Key is recognising the importance of work being led by communities themselves, not imposed by well-meaning outsiders. Where input comes from outside a community in question, it should be by way of a 'community development' approach.

Community development is a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems. Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people with the skills they need to effect change within their communities.


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