Legislating for spiritual care – one step at a time

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I have had an article published in the Summer edition of the Journal for the Study of Spirituality (JSS) on the work some colleagues and I did to successfully help steer an amendment through the Care Act 2014.

The article is in the journal’s Forum section, and is entitled: Working in Parliament ‘to have spirituality and spiritual care explicitly acknowledged in health and social care changes’. (The quote in the title is taken from Professor Margaret Holloway’s keynote address to the 2014 conference of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality, reprinted in an earlier edition of the journal.)

The article detailed the footsteps taken that led to a government amendment adding the obligation to consider people’s ‘beliefs’ to the need for consideration of their ‘views, wishes, and feelings’ that was already in the original language of the Bill.

I was also asked to write a piece on how my colleagues and I came to be engaged in this work, resulting in a second article called: The path to the Care Act: 90 years of speaking up for spirituality and health in Parliament.

Those who know me will realise I haven’t been around for all 90 of those years!

But for the past 14 years I have been following in the footsteps of individuals from the Christian Science movement who have engaged in legislative work – going all the way back to the 1920s, when the first two women to take seats in Parliament were both Christian Scientists (Nancy Astor and Margaret Wintringham).

The copyright of both articles lies with the JSS, but here is an excerpt from each of them.


From: Working in Parliament ‘to have spirituality and spiritual care explicitly acknowledged in health and social care changes’.

The Care Act The Care Act (Legislation.gov.uk 2014)

 The Care Bill received Royal Assent on 14 May, 2014, and became an Act of Parliament (i.e. was passed into law). It comes into operation in April 2015. Nestled into the law – under ‘PART 1, Care and support, General responsibilities of local authorities’, is the following:

1.Promoting individual well-being

(3) In exercising a function under this Part in the case of an individual, a local authority must have regard to the following matters in particular …

(b) the individual’s views, wishes, feelings and beliefs; (italics added)

This is, perhaps, not a full blown revolution in furthering understanding of the vital spiritual component that care should have, for those wishing to have it. But it certainly strengthens the obligation on local authorities to be aware of, and respond to, the spiritual and religious beliefs of those who come under their care. And perhaps it is a benchmark along the way.

It is to be hoped that this legislation will set a precedent for years to come, with this helpful provision as a part of the precedent set. There will be further opportunities to build on it – increasingly to ensure that people’s spiritual and religious beliefs are properly considered as a local authority delivers care.


From: The path to the Care Act: 90 years of speaking up for spirituality and health in Parliament.

The Care Standards Bill, passing through Parliament in 1999, brought another opportunity to speak up in favour of a space in law for spiritual care practices. The legislation was so sweeping that it totally repealed the 1984 Act, including the exemption that had been in place for Christian Science nursing care for 70 years. Consequently, the Christian Science Committee on Publication worked diligently to ensure this non-medical approach to healthcare would remain legal. Without any committed Christian Scientists in either chamber, this time it was the husband of a Christian Scientist who was willing, and more than able, to put the case for accommodating the need.

            ‘Orthodoxy is my doxy – and 1662 at that’, pronounced Lord Weatherill, addressing fellow peers during the Care Standards debate. The popular former Speaker of the House of Commons continued: ‘My wife is a Christian Scientist, and during the 51 years of our happy marriage I have come to have a regard and a respect for Christian Science teaching and healing’.

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