Joy Barlow, ‘Time for us to come together and act.’

By 24th June 2019 July 3rd, 2019 Blogs

Time for us to come together and act – reading the Hard Edges report, Joy Barlow, Corra Foundation Trustee and Chair of the PDI Steering group. 

The Hard Edges Scotland Report is a powerful and important study. It deserves to be widely read, discussed and debated. It gives neither comfortable questions or easy answers. But is far better for it.

Complexity and connections, as those of us who have worked in the world of substance use and dependency for many years know, is the territory.

Led by researchers from I-Sphere at Herriot Watt University and supported by independent funders Lankelly Chase and The Robertson Trust, the report is a comprehensive study of severe and multiple disadvantage in Scotland. It builds on and develops from similar work in England in 2015.

Carefully connecting data sets on substance use, homelessness, offending, mental health, domestic abuse and violence, exposes a deeper picture of how these issues often co-exist in peoples’ lives, layering on disadvantage.

There are new insights here, which will take time to consider and respond to, such as the positive ‘stickability’ of criminal justice social work services, and the patterns across rural and urban areas that make specialist support harder to plan for and provide.

There are also learnings that are familiar, certainly from the work funded by the Partnership Drugs Initiative (PDI), a collaboration between Corra Foundation and the Scottish Government supporting children and young people affected by drugs and alcohol.

The report sets out how childhood trauma and a range of adverse childhood experiences often lie behind adult severe and multiple disadvantage.

Through PDI funded-work Corra  has evidence of the immense value of child and young people focused support, whole family approaches, and relationship-based practice. These elements speak to key findings from the Hard Edges Scotland report, that rebuilding family relationships supports recovery, and personal, proactive services are effective.

The publication of this report should be welcomed. There are hard issues here, but also clear acknowledgement of approaches that work and can be more widely spread.

Above all the response to the report can demonstrate the potential in Scotland to listen to peoples’ lived experience, join up and work together; the potential of a shared dialogue and commitment across public and voluntary services to reach and support people.

Because some of the findings are familiar, we now need to act. In a way, I feel angry and disappointed that we should be reading of that which we have known for years. It is now the time for us all to come together, not waiting for government, statutory or voluntary services to act in isolation. We do major disservice to the most vulnerable of our citizens if we do not act now.


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

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