What do we already know? our whole family evidence bank: report

Summary of evidence collated as part of the Ask the Family engagement project. The full detailed report can be found below.

2. Conversations for Change

What Is This?

This project was a systems change initiative led by Circle and Meldap in East Lothian, which gathered families' and services' views about family inclusive practice, whole family approaches and family rights in the context of substance use. The project explored the barriers and challenges faced by families affected by substance use, and the solutions that families need from their communities and services. A website and resource materials have been developed for families and professionals (see link below).

What Did Families Say?

Conversations for Change gave space for families to share their own stories and case studies. They shared their understanding and experiences of family support and family inclusive practice. Good support meant workers "never gave up trying", trust, and supporting families to develop new knowledge and skills. They noted there was not always support for adult family members in their own right, and recognition there are many barriers stopping families reaching out. Discrimination, stigma and shame were common themes ("It was great when (we) were on holiday, no one knew us and chatted to us like we were normal"). The independence of family support was valued:

"…always knowing that there's someone you can hit on speed dial when I'm really struggling. You can have the most loving family and friends, but sometimes you just want to speak to someone else,because you get a different perspective on things, you know. Even then, you might feel a bit embarrassed. It's good to know there's another person out there listening, who's genuinely concerned."(Family questionnaire)

"Family support allows families to live their lives and not put their lives on hold. ...Family support gives them the tools to start living again. It teaches families how to live with substance use in the family and live their lives. Family support allows people to share their experiences and stops them from feeling alone. She said families become obsessed with trying to save their loved one. Sandra says that families can't save their loved one,but theycan love and support them. Family support can give families hope."(Interview with Sandra, family member)

"Andy thought that some of the challenges and barriers to receiving help were: not wanting to betray the family; feeling like he is being left to make decisions when things go wrong orchange; not having specific support, feeling as though' we're on our own'; and that there is nobody around to come and advise them. Andy understands that the social worker is for the children, but he asks,' who is there for them, to support them and answer questions?" (Interview with Andy, kinship carer)

Three Take-Home Messages

1. Family support allows families to live their lives and not put their lives on hold.

2. Howservices engage is more important than whatthey do.

3. Families currently have limited awareness of their rights to health, a life free from harms caused by substance use, and to support in their own right.


Alexander, Katie; McLaughlan, Lisa; and Gentile, Angela (2020) 'Conversations for Change: Family Rights and Inclusion for families affected by substance use in East Lothian' (A resource for families and professionals), Circle and MELD. https://circle.scot/families/family-rights-and-inclusion/


Email: alcoholanddrugsupport@gov.scot

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