Chaplaincy describes the work undertaken by the faith communities in hospitals in the form of counselling, religious rites and spiritual care. The Agency has the task of supporting the development of these activities by allocating state funding for the employment and training of staff for pastoral care.
There is a long tradition of offering chaplaincy and spiritual care in Swedish health care. For many years it was the public sector in Sweden who were responsible for hiring hospital chaplains, and they were always priests coming from the Church of Sweden. In the late 1950’s, the Swedish Government proposed that the responsibility (and the funding) to engage in spiritual care within the health care system would rest with the faith communities. At the same time the Government opened up the possibility of other faith communities - not only the Church of Sweden - to be part of the chaplaincy teams in hospitals.
Concrete opportunities for a broader religious representation, however, was not given until the beginning of the 1980's, when the Swedish Parliament decided to allocate government grants to enable religious communities to offer chaplaincy in the health care system. At first it was mainly the free church faith groups which set up services for the spiritual care of the health care system. Some time later, the Catholic Church established services in some hospitals.
Since the year of 2000 there has also been services in place for Orthodox hospital clergy, Muslim imams and Buddhist representatives. More services are under construction. The Agency's role is to assist in the development of services, coordinating training activities and providing support to build the structures necessary to work in a good way to relate to hospitals and the regional government (landsting).
The state grants are directed to services directed to the broad general public. As of today, The Agency distributes and is responsible for the state grants for services within the spiritual care in the health care system, but the responsibility for the services within chaplaincy are carried by faith groups.