A tribute to Julia Franklin – a palliative care social worker who stood firm for caring relationships

In 2015, we published ‘Palliative Stories’, a series of posts from the perspective of patients and family carers. One of our contributors was Julia Franklin who described what it felt like to change gear from health professional to patient.

We are sad to announce that Julia died on 2 April 2018 at St Wilfred’s Hospice, Chichester. As a special tribute to Julia’s long and distinguished career as a palliative care social worker, we publish below extracts from a letter written by David Oliviere (Former Director of Education, St Christopher’s Hospice), which was read out at her memorial service on 24 April.

Julia Franklin. Photograph with kind permission of the Franklin family.

“Dear Julia

Our thoughts of your abundant and beautiful professional life just have to be in the form of a letter – you’ll know why.

Many colleagues have written emails about you, with similar sentiments as those expressed by Dame Barbara Monroe, who said, “I have so many wonderful memories of Julia both as a powerful social worker who stood up for what mattered and as a friend.”

You came into the field of hospice and palliative care social work in the early 1980s – one of the creators of the hospital palliative care support team model whilst working at the University College Hospital Support Team in London. You were part of our group convening the growing number of hospice social work posts in the UK and we worked together in setting up the first Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Social Workers in the world. You became the Chair of our Association after Elisabeth Earnshaw-Smith and Frances Sheldon – what an honour for us to have you and your fight and humour at the helm; your pride in being a social worker with people needing quality end-of- life care; your fight for better care as you identified injustices; your speaking up, your teaching, and day-to-day hands-on care to dying people, guiding you.

One area stands out which needs special mention – it was you, Julia, who identified with Jonathan Lloyd from St Christopher’s the abuses in the UK Attendance Allowance system when applied to dying people. With the six-month waiting period, it meant most of our patients had died before they became eligible for the allowance. You and Jonathan led us social workers into a major campaign of sending case after case to our Members of Parliament.

Within two years the law was changed in Parliament to create “special rules” for dying people to receive the Allowance without waiting for a six-month eligibility period. This one single campaign has since benefited thousands of people with the financial costs of being ill. You were invited to number 10 Downing Street to meet the prime minister and were even invited to join the government social security committee and advise on benefits.

With your enthusiasm for self-awareness and staff support, you introduced us to ‘Bibliotherapy’ – the use of stories for therapeutic benefit, often used in Israel with children experiencing loss and trauma. Remember how you taught us the bibliotherapy exercise reading the Bambi story of the relationship between the leaves and the oak tree at the onset of autumn? Through it, you got us to explore ‘autumn’, ‘parting’, ‘the unknown’. After reading us the story, you invited us to write a letter to the tree as though we were one of the two leaves, before it finally fell off the sturdy branch. The letter in response from the tree to the leaf was always supportive, wise and humorous, as you were. I’ve used this exercise countless times with groups around the world and thought of you every time people have read out their letters! So today had to be a letter to you.

Julia – thank you for inspiring so many colleagues, friends, patients and families: for your work at St Barnabas Hospice, Worthing; for your more recent work with the Motor Neurone Disease Association; for your supervision of staff in hospices; for your advocacy for good support for the professionals; for your publications, even for sharing your own recent patient experiences. You wrote, “It was sometimes difficult for me to behave as a patient.”

Amongst other responses to your own patient story published in the European Association for Palliative Care blog, was a reply from three senior health professionals in Italy. It read:

 “Your words confirm the important role of caring relationships in dealing with cancer in terms of a space where professional caregivers are able to listen, to understand and to try to meet needs.” 

Julia, you stood firm for caring relationships.

A job well done, one done with such genuine interest in others.

With our love, and farewell from all your friends and colleagues.”

The EAPC remembers Julia with much gratitude and respect for her huge contribution to palliative care and offers condolences to her family. Our thanks to the Franklin family and to David Oliviere for permission to publish extracts from this letter.


This entry was posted in INTERVIEWS & TRIBUTES, Palliative Stories, PATIENT & FAMILY CARE, Social work and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A tribute to Julia Franklin – a palliative care social worker who stood firm for caring relationships

  1. seanog57 says:

    A trail-blazing social worker in palliative care and inspiring example to all. Julia, rest in peace.

  2. David Oliviere says:

    AvrilThanks. Looks good.Hope you both are having a great holiday.David 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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