The past month has been a period of transition, reflection and readjustment. Like many, we’ve found ourselves, and those around us, trying to make sense of what’s going on and where we might be best placed to help families living with the effects of substance use across Scotland. Since lockdown, over a month ago, we’ve all been focussing on how we keep ourselves and those we care about safe and well whilst trying to figure out what happens next? …When is next? It seems the coronavirus has forced us all to bring to life every ‘what if’ scenario we ever imagined. This has challenged us all to adapt the way we work and led us to reconfigure our offer for those we work for and with.
Our Scottish Families team are now based at home (like many of our friends and colleagues in the sector) and we are inspired by those still delivering care and support in the community. We have the utmost respect and admiration for their hard work, dedication and commitment. We are clapping and cheering (and rattling pots) to acknowledge their amazing work – our social media pages are testament to this. At Scottish Families we are doing what we do best; we are here to listen, letting people know we are only a free phone call, text or email away and building on what people tell us they need to offer the right support that is needed in such uncertain and challenging times.
At the same time we are experiencing the impact of inequality unfold in front of us more than we’d ever thought it could or would. We are putting as much as we can into practice to help the most vulnerable people who are being hit the hardest. This includes people who use alcohol and other drugs for a range of individual reasons and the families they live with.
We know from our helpline and other support services many families are struggling to get what they need to meet their basic needs including food, energy and social connection (including links online that are often taken for granted). Our Family support team are working hard to keep connected to family members to reduce some of the pressures they are living with in the home. This means working closely with community volunteer hubs, foodbanks and other partners to keep people safe and well. We’ve created a FAQs based on what family members are asking us about, it is important to us that families are getting the right information.
We recently received funding from the Scottish Government to enhance our offer to the families. We have used this funding to get meals to families, increase our counselling capacity and to distribute #StayInTheHoose wellbeing packs to families living with effects of substance use. This includes a significant number of young people involved with our Routes young person’s project. This also means making sure they have the right digital support they require to stay connected online to learn, socialise and feel safer when things go wrong at home.
We care so much for connection and know just how much of an impact the right connections can have on improving the overall health and well-being of everyone in our society including our most vulnerable.
Alongside our helpline, web-chat, bereavement and telehealth support services we are also offering a number of light-hearted ways for people to connect with each other. We recognise some families may experience problems with substance use for the first time (where this may not have been the case before). We want to use this time to make new connections and find new ways to reach families. That’s why we have included these new initiatives: Connecting Conversations a 30 minute slot for people to join us for a cuppa and a chat (held three afternoons per week via Zoom). Together in the Distance is a community arts initiative, Anonymous Pen Pals letter exchange project and Voices Together our first ever virtual choir.
I’ve just been practising my part for Voice Together and my singing has made for a few raised eyebrows (and that’s just the dog). I’ve already tried multiple takes of the track folk voted for as our first song – 90s belter ‘you gotta be’ by Des’ree, and I’ll eventually nail it (I hope). I really feel better having tried to sing it. It’s no X-factor performance but it is fun having a go.
We’d love more people to come join our #StayInTheHoose movement. Come sing, chat or draw with us and discover new ways to be part of something bigger – especially in this time of social distancing. When this all over, we plan to bring everyone involved together to enjoy the spoils of our creative efforts in person and we promise to make that happen! Social distancing can mean more connections and less isolation with the right opportunities.
John Holleran is the Families & Communities Manager at Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs