Drug Deaths Taskforce response: cross government approach

Cross government response to the Drug Deaths Taskforce report, Changing Lives. It contains a cross government action plan, response to Taskforce recommendations and a stigma action plan.

28. The plan – key themes

Within these broad actions are key themes which will inform the development of the detail of the work we do within Scottish Government, the criteria for the accreditation scheme and the actions within the national programme.

28.1 Language and labels

We can all think about the language we and others use when talking about someone affected by problem substance use. Is such language judgemental? Does it acknowledge that a person with problematic substance use is a person first and foremost and that dependency is just one aspect of who they are?

No one should be solely defined by their substance dependency.

Words that were previously acceptable are now recognised as inappropriate and harmful unless an individual chooses to identify with those words themselves. We can see this in the changes in the language that has been used when describing race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, mental health.

Key action: Scottish Government will commit to continuing to use neutral language in our communications and encourage all individuals and organisations, including the media, to do the same. As part of the programme to tackle social stigma, language and images that are stigmatising will be challenged with positive alternatives offered.

28.2 Contact and community engagement

Meaningful engagement with people with experience of problem substance use is one of the strongest ways we can change our thinking. It is important to remember that most people recover from problem substance use and for many it can be a positive and transformative experience.

We can all take responsibility for learning about and celebrating recovery in all its forms and engaging with people affected by substance use wherever they are in their journey.

We are also aware that it is not the responsibility of people with experience of problem substance use to educate others and to share their experiences. It is up to an individual if they wish to be a part of this, and we should not pressure people to become advocates.

Key action: Within Scottish Government we commit to developing closer links with third sector and lived and living experience organisations across departments, beyond Drugs Policy, to encourage contact and engagement with these communities.

Key action: Our accreditation scheme will ask organisations to make a commitment to engage with and develop links with local communities of lived and living experience, to enable these communities to contribute positively.

Key action: The national programme will develop guidance on how to increase engagement and develop these links in a safe and supportive environment.

28.3 Recognising dependency is a health condition

Problem substance use should be treated as a health condition. This means that those affected should get the same support as those dealing with any health issue.

Key action: Scottish Government has committed to treating dependency as a health condition in our approach to developing policy to support people affected by substance dependency. We will also bring this into the ways in which we operate as an employer and public sector leader.

Key action: Accredited organisations will conduct a review of internal policies and guidelines on supporting people who have experience of problem substance use, including that of a family member alongside an assessment of all guidelines and policies (written and in practice) to identify and rectify the ways in which they may be stigmatising or exclusionary to people who use/have used substances.

28.4 Becoming trauma aware

Our ambition is for a trauma informed and trauma responsive workforce across Scotland.

Being trauma informed means creating environments that aim to increase feelings of safety, choice, trust, collaboration and empowerment and decrease feelings of threat, stress and harm as well as reducing feelings of blame or stigma. This can support people to access services to support their healing and recovery through positive relationships and connections.

Key action: As part of our leadership pledge to become a trauma informed organisation, Scottish Government is implementing a Training & Wellbeing Package on Trauma Informed Practice for its own staff.

Key action: Accredited organisations will be asked to ensure their people are aware of the effects of trauma and to work towards the implementation of a trauma-informed approach when working with people who may have been affected by trauma, including those with experience of problem substance use.


Email: Drugsmissiondeliveryteam@gov.scot

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