Carolyn Sawers ‘For the avoidance of doubt’

By 24th June 2019 Blogs

‘For the avoidance of doubt’ – reading the Hard Edges Scotland report, Carolyn Sawers, Deputy Chief Executive Corra Foundation.  

Carolyn Sawyers

In 2009, I worked on a review for a funder about the grants we’d made around homelessness, offending, substance use and mental health. The evidence told me that we had helped lots of good work happen.

But the most positive changes in peoples’ lives had come about when the links between these issues were seen. And rather than providing ‘services’ in isolation, workers intentionally looked at where individual people were at, what had happened, and what could help. We resolved to focus funding on work that brought together support across traditional service boundaries.

That was ten years ago. Now in 2019 I sat down to read the Hard Edges Scotland report.

It gives the clearest set of evidence yet that many people in Scotland continue to experience severe and multiple disadvantage. These disadvantages are homelessness, substance dependence and offending. Many people experience all three. And the report also details the scale and overlap of mental health and domestic violence and abuse with these disadvantages, widening our understanding.

The report describes what people experience, the underpinning drivers, and the impact on people’s lives. It examines the support that is working, as well as the missed opportunities to help.

Reading the report, I didn’t feel endorsement that I was right ten years ago, but shame. I knew this ten years ago. Have I done enough? What opportunities have I missed to help?

The power of the Hard Edges Scotland report for me is that doesn’t rely on or exploit any a gut-wrenching story but hits us with the tonne of bricks that is the truth of data, backed up by extensive analysis from listening to people’s experiences across services, geographies and time.

It understands the complexity but tells its story with an absolute avoidance of doubt.

Over a year, 5,700 people in Scotland experience all three of homelessness, substance dependency and offending. 21,000 people in the course of the whole of their adult lives experience all three.

It is too many. But it is not an unreachable number of people to help. It is not half the people in Scotland, or a city full. Or even the population of the town I grew up in.

It is a reachable number of people. And they are reachable because they are already ever present in services, in support, in the places that are trying to help, on the end of letters sent out or phone-calls made to book appointments.

People in public and voluntary sector services are working every day to help. There’s more we can do to get the system, resources, funding, and culture organised to make sure accessible, reliable, ‘sticky’ support is there for everyone who needs it.

The Hard Edges Scotland report gives us the evidence to act and provides momentum for us all to do all we can to help.

To find out more about Hard Edges Scotland and to read the full report click here.

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