Ask The Family

Family Perspectives On Whole Family Support and Family Inclusive Practice

The national Whole Family Approach/ Family Inclusive Practice Working Group was established in 2020, with the support of the Scottish Government, to review current practice in relation to families affected by alcohol and drug use. Over the past year, the Working Group has carried out a process of information-gathering, sharing learning, and hearing from external experts (including families with lived experience and organisations working with families).

The Group heard many excellent examples where building trusting relationships between workers and families was recognised as the key to success, support moved at the family’s pace and focused on their own needs, and families felt respected and included in developments and decisions.

The Working Group subsequently drafted a set of Whole Family Approach/ Family Inclusive Practice Principles to apply to all services supporting families affected by alcohol and drugs. This includes family support services, and also treatment and care services supporting families’ loved ones.

In December 2020, Scottish Families was commissioned by the Scottish Government to lead a family engagement project to test out these draft Principles, in partnership with Action for Children, All in the Family and Circle.

We encouraged partners to use creative and family-friendly engagement activities to ask these questions, and to present the findings. We have created this ‘virtual exhibition’ to display this creative output from all of the family engagement activities.

On behalf of all the project partners, we would like to thank all of the family members – children, young people and adults – who took the time to complete our national survey and take part in our family engagement activities. Their insight and expertise has been hugely helpful, not to mention their creativity!

Ask The Family Report

You can read and download the full ‘Ask The Family’ report here.

Family Engagement Activities

  1. Ask The Family Survey
  2. Family Support is a Lifeline
  3. What Do We Already Know?
  4. Family Conversation Cafe
  5. It’s Good to Talk
  6. Let Us Reach Out
  7. My Road to Recovery + This is Your Journey
  8. Families on the Edge
  9. Welcome to our Family Word Cloud
  10. Now He’s Got a Friend in Me
  11. What is Important to Us?
  12. What a Support Worker Should Be
  13. A Tool Belt for Families
  14. What Makes Good Family Support?
  15. A Chat about Family Support

Ask The Family Survey

Ask the Family was a national online survey carried out by Scottish Families between 8th-31st January 2021. The survey was open to anyone aged 16+ in Scotland who is affected by alcohol or drug use (their own or someone else’s) and who is being supported by family support services. This includes one to one and group support and whole family support. It includes family support provided by paid staff, volunteers and peers (i.e. other family members). It also includes support for children, young people and adults in the family.

The survey aimed to understand more about families’ experiences of substance harm and family support, and their views of whole family approach principles. The survey was shared via our networks and social media.

135 people took part in the survey. The survey was targeted on anyone who is affected by alcohol or drug use (their own or someone else’s) and who is being supported by family support services.

Family Support is a Lifeline

This family guide was developed as an easy-read ‘family support made simple’ document. It sets out families’ own definitions of key family support principles, including clear descriptions, translations and alternative family-friendly words for terms which policy-makers and practitioners might use.

This guide was developed by a group of six adult family members who are supported through All in the Family, a family support partnership between Scottish Families and My Support Day working across the South Lanarkshire Beacons (recovery hubs).

Download and Read ‘Family Support is a Lifeline’

What Do We Already Know?

This exercise cross-checked the Draft Whole Family Approach/ Family Inclusive Practice Principles with what families have ALREADY told us in recent research. Our Whole Family Evidence Bank includes five recent research reports carried out by or for the family engagement project partners. These include Circle’s ‘Conversations for Change’ publication and a service evaluation, Action for Children’s Family Support evaluation, and two Scottish Families publications (‘Constantly Just Holding It Up and Together’ and ‘Behind the Numbers’). Three ‘take-home messages’ were identified for each publication, illustrated by key quotes from the research.

Download and Read ‘What Do We Already Know?’

Family Conversation Cafe

Our Family Conversation Café was a facilitated online event hosted by Scottish Families. The event was open to any family members aged 16+ years who are receiving family support, including those affected by someone else’s substance use and those affected by their own use (e.g. parents in recovery or parents using substances). The café focused on the question of ‘What does family support mean to you?’, exploring topics such as what is important to you about support, what whole family support means to you, experiences of being included/ excluded as a family member, and rights and family support. Eight family members took part (plus some staff members).

Padlet was used to gather more detailed views on each of the Draft Principles after the event, including ‘Likes’ and written comments.

Made with Padlet

You can view the Padlet here.

It’s Good to Talk

Young people from Scottish Families’ Routes project wrote and performed a short sketch on TikTok (running time 00m:28s) to show what their lives were like before and after getting support from Routes. It shows how much they value support from a worker as well as connecting with each other. Claire their worker said “They thought of the idea themselves and loved doing it”.

Three young people (Amy, Ashley and Chloe) aged under 18 years from Routes took part, along with Claire and Pam from Scottish Families (Pam stayed behind the scenes!). Routes is a national demonstration project based in East and West Dunbartonshire, working with young people aged 12-26 years old who are affected by someone else’s substance use.

Let Us Reach Out

This poem is written by a parent to describe what they are looking for from their new family support worker. The person also provided explanatory notes explaining specific lines of the poem. The poem was submitted in writing, and Scottish Families also produced a short film (running time 02m:06s) using the words alongside images and music.

This poem was written by a parent supported by Action for Children.


A Poem to Our New Family Support Worker

When we need your helping hand
Let us reach out
Learn our stories to understand
Without judgement or doubt

Trust, kindness and unconditional love
The seeds that help us grow
And yes sometimes a proverbial shove
But at our pace, sometimes slow

No stigma, no assumptions, no judgement
Be our mentor, our Ian Wright
Be open and honest, one hundred percent
On the same level, there is no height

Don’t underestimate your listening ear
Humour too, we like a laugh
But our stress also disguises as fear
Our voice, speak not on our behalf

Bring your real authentic self
And show your human-ness
Love and kindness are our wealth
This is how we will progress

My Road to Recovery + This is Your Journey

This is a powerful illustrated story of a parent’s own journey from addiction to recovery, including a frank insight into how workers helped (and didn’t help) at different points in their journey.

This story was written by a mum supported by Action for Children.

The ‘This is Your Journey’ letter follows on at the end of the ‘My Road to Recovery’ story above. This is an open letter “to send a message to those that are struggling and to workers to know how they can help us better”. At the end the author includes four motivational quotes she wanted to share.

This story was written by the same mum supported by Action for Children who wrote ‘My Road to Recovery’.

Download and Read ‘My Road to Recovery’ and ‘This is Your Journey’

Families on the Edge

This is a powerpoint slide show which displays eight reflections from parents (quotes) with an interpretation by their workers about what this tells us about good family support.

The content for the slides comes from families supported by Action for Children’s residential Family Support Services.

If you are not able to see the slideshow above you can download ‘Families on the Edge’ as a PDF here.

Welcome to our Family Word Cloud

This word cloud reviews some of the language used in the draft Principles along with the words family members would use to describe an effective family support worker:

 “We wanted to let you know what words we would use to describe workers who support us effectively … and how we should relate to each other”.

The word cloud was designed by a dad based on his own family’s experiences, and the values and approaches they feel make up effective family support. The family are supported by Action for Children’s Dundee Families Service, which offers intensive residential family support.

Download as PDF

Now He’s Got A Friend In Me

This poem is a description of a child’s relationship with his family support worker, including how the worker helped the child and the activities they enjoyed together.

This poem was written by a 10 year old boy (with the help of his mum) whose family has been supported by Action for Children.


Family Support

He was there for us at my toughest time

Helped me talk without fear

Became my friend, now he’s got a friend in me

Fun games, quizzes and bike rides

Video calls, trampolining, and walks in the park

Without his friendly ear who knows where I’d be

First thought was to help our family

Gave me strength and built resilience

Tools and tactics to put to use

Survived 2020 with help a plenty

What is Important to Us?

This is an animation (running time 01m:42s) representing the views of the children about what they value from family support workers. Watch it with the sound on to enjoy the soundtrack too!

Girls and boys aged 3-13 years supported by Action for Children’s Dundee Families Service, an intensive residential family support service.

What a Support Worker Should Be

Family members were invited to write a letter to their support worker as part of this project. This letter is written by a young person about what a support worker should be, based on her experience.

This letter is written by a 12 year old girl supported by Circle. Her parents are also receiving support from the same worker.

Download ‘What a Support Worker Should Be’ as a PDF

A Tool Belt For Families

This short film (running time 05m:33s) is inspired by conversations at My Support Day, where families are supported through an evidence-based programme called Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). The group leaders (who are also family members) use a Tool Belt analogy to describe the impact of CRAFT to families. They explain to families that they have arrived with an empty Tool Belt, having lost or buried all the tools they used to have, due to the impact of addiction on their family. Learning and practising CRAFT will help fill their Tool Belt with everything they need for their own and their family’s wellbeing, through bringing to the fore these tools which have been lost or buried.

This film was written and produced by Mel McPherson, a family member and founding member of My Support Day, a peer-led family support organisation in South Lanarkshire. Many of the statements in the film are quotes and comments by family members.

What Makes Good Family Support?

Family members were invited to write a letter to their support worker as part of this project. This contribution was written by a young person about what makes good family support, based on their experience.

This contribution was written by a young person aged 16 years old, who has been supported by Circle over the past year. The young person’s mum receives some support from the same worker, whilst their dad (who lives separately) is supported by Circle’s dads’ worker.


What makes good family support?

Having a good worker is really important.

You need to be able to trust the worker and feel that you can open up to them and relate to them.  They need to be friendly and my worker is funny which helps.

Getting good support has meant that I notice I feel better and the way I deal with situations in my life is better.

Being supported by someone who is able to give advice and feedback when I ask for it otherwise, I feel like I tell them my life story and get nothing back.

Be able to share some personal experiences of things that have helped so I don’t feel like I’m the only one who finds things hard sometimes.

A Chat About Family Support

This is a record of conversations with parents about what makes good (and bad) family support (Key Components); what they value about support, i.e. what is important to them (Priorities); what words would they use to describe good family support (and their workers) (Language); what difference support has made to them and their lives (Change and Impact); and how they would describe a good family support worker (Workforce).

Circle workers held phone conversations with four mums being supported by their West Lothian family support service. The mums are all aged in their 30s, and have eight children between them (aged 2-14 years, four boys, four girls).

Download and read ‘A Chat About Family Support’

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