MOU signed between HPCA and Legal Aid South Africa

In 2009 Legal Aspects of Palliative Care was published. Later in 2012 this was updated in full colour.The book is a practical resource for palliative care staff and legal practitioners assisting people facing life-threatening illness and requiring legal advice.    

The book recognises that legal issues increase emotional stress in patients and families, and impacts on the way they cope with illness.  Ultimately the aim is to create awareness of legal pain as an aspect of total pain in the context of illness.  Legal pain refers to a client’s worries about legal matters which have not been attended to.

A two year rollout of law workshops followed after these publications. The overall aim was to build relationships with university law faculties, law firms, and legal NGOs, enhance the provision of legal assistance to palliative care patients, and develop staff capacity to identify and inform patients about legal issues.

We are fortunate to have had support from Legal Aid during workshops, with a lawyer and sometimes two, from the Justice Centre closest to each venue attending.  Participants have responded enthusiastically to the training and have shared this with colleagues, families and clients and with further groups of doctors, medical students, caregivers, and hospice board members. These subsequent information sessions took place at social work forums, social work in-service training, patient support groups, network forums and residential care facilities. 

Hospice staff are assisting patients, family members and colleagues to draw up their wills, successfully using the Children’s Act to resolve their clients’ legal problems, expanding their network of resources, referring clients to Legal Aid, and inviting Legal Aid attorneys and private attorneys to lead presentations at hospice. 

Social workers have handled numerous cases since the law training:

·         A social worker from Port Elizabeth reported that Legal Aid assistance stopped a family abusing their main breadwinner, who was suffering with life-limiting illness.

·         Elsewhere a social worker rescued a little boy from a crèche.  He was struggling with pneumonia and HIV-related complications and she was ready to use Form 36, (statutory powers to remove the child without consent of the family or the crèche) but once the life-threatening danger was explained, they agreed it was best to move him.  The social worker felt the law training gave her the conviction to insist on the child’s right to proper care.

·         A social worker from Grahamstown reported that for a R25 fee, Legal Aid were advising patients drafting their wills.  Clients bring in their papers and documentation and receive assistance.                                                                                                                                                

Now in 2015 Legal Aid South Africa and HPCA signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), to enhance protection of the legal rights of patients in palliative care. The purpose of the MOU is to support patients who are in hospice care, with legal assistance by creating a link between Justice Centres and the hospices to ensure legal services are accessible.  Where capacity allows, Legal Aid SA will also visit hospices to assist patients through Legal Aid’s outreach initiatives.

Now that the MOU is in existence we would value your input.

We would like your views on how this document should be implemented and brought to life.  If you have ideas of how this MOU could work for you, we would love to hear.  If you have additional legal needs, we would also like to hear about this.  We are hoping that Legal Aid SA will also have a table at the HPCA conference in September 2015.

Please let us have your feedback by latest 15 June 2015 to Nicola GunnClark or 021 531 0277.

To view the MOU, click here


Groups of Social workers, social auxiliaries, with lawyers attended the law trainings in 2013 – 2014.