Scottish Families Book Group Book Review: ‘A Terrible Kindness’ by Jo Browning Wroe

By Lena McMillan, Family Support Development Officer – Forth Valley

‘A Terrible Kindness’ by Jo Browning Wroe

A Terrible Kindness: The Bestselling Richard and Judy Book Club Pick:  Amazon.co.uk: Browning Wroe, Jo: 9780571368297: Books

February’s book choice for our group was ‘A Terrible Kindness’ by Jo Browning Wroe.

The book starts in 1966, at the time of the Aberfan disaster, when a landslide engulfed a primary school and houses in the village, killing 116 children and 28 adults. Nineteen-year-old William, the main character in this story, has just qualified as an embalmer and feels compelled to go to Wales and help. What he experiences there stays with him, having an impact on his life and relationships and connecting him to losses throughout his own life. 

What seemingly starts as a book about Aberfan quickly becomes a book about William’s life and his relationships, covering the themes of family, friends, sexuality, guilt, forgiveness, kindness, grief, and PTSD. 

This was one of our most highly rated reads, with our group scoring it at 8.9 out of 10. 

Everyone found it an easy read, despite lots of its subject matter, agreeing that the topics were covered sensitively and respectfully. The settings were well described and there were lots of strong characters in the book who were mostly liked, with the one exception being William’s mum and the choices she made during his childhood: 

“My job in life, William, is to love you like no on earth, and I have to say, I think I’m doing a pretty good job…”

Everyone agreed that she was not doing a good job at all and we discussed how her emotions, fears and judgements made her a very selfish mum at times. 

We explored what it must be like to have conflicting pressure from a parent regarding career choices and spoke about William’s friendship with Martin, one of his fellow choir boys at Cambridge. We also discussed the role of the Midnight Choir later on in William’s life – the powerful impact of what happens to Colin, a member of the choir, and how William responds to this incident.  We also spoke about how William seems to feel more at ease with dead bodies than living people and discussed his relationship with Gloria and the importance of their visit together to Aberfan, years after the disaster. This visit marks a turning point in their relationship and points to a more hopeful future, which is where the story ends. 

Some comments from our group: 

  • ‘…it’s a strange topic, I wasn’t very keen at first but I grew into it.’
  • ‘…handled the tragedy beautifully.”
  • ‘…there was a real sense of self throughout this book – both in being true to yourself and what you want and also how bodies should look like themselves…’
  • ‘..author creates powerful images, like the child’s hand with the painted fingernails showing at her coffin…’

How to join the book group:

The Scottish Families Book Group is for anyone who is currently being supported by one of our services in Scotland.

For more information or to join us, please contact Lena from our team groups@sfad.org.uk.

Scottish Families Book Group Book Review: ‘Winter Ghosts’ by Kate Mosse

By Lena McMillan, Family Support Development Officer – Forth Valley

‘Winter Ghosts’ by Kate Mosse

January’s book choice for our group was ‘Winter Ghosts’ by Kate Mosse. Set in France, 1928, this is the story of Freddie, a man struggling with the loss of his brother. While driving through the mountains in snowy conditions, he loses control of his car, which spins off the road. Freddie walks off in search of help, finding himself in the remote village of Nulle. There he meets the captivating Fabrissa, but all is not quite what it seems, as the story flits between Freddie’s present day 1928 and a centuries-old past. 

“We are who we are because of those we love and who we allow to love us.” 

This is a book that covers themes of grief, memory, and war, in an almost fairytale form of storytelling. 

Our group rated it at 7.4 out of 10. 

Quite a few of our readers found it a slow-paced read in the beginning, almost a chore, and we later discussed if this was a conscious choice from the other, to suggest an early stage of Freddie’s grief. Conversely, another reader found it a quick read and most of the group agreed that it was, at least on the surface, an easy read.

We discussed the which characters we liked and disliked and covered the topics of grief and war and touched briefly on closure and moving on. 

Readers in the group commented positively on the writer’s style of writing, liking its descriptive nature which made it ‘very atmospheric.’ 

Some comments from our group: 

“…very poetically written, her descriptions were lovely.”

“…simple story, bit unbelievable at times but covered quite serious topics.”

“…shows the importance of family, which was missing in this…”

How to join the book group:

The Scottish Families Book Group is for anyone who is currently being supported by one of our services in Scotland.

For more information or to join us, please contact Lena from our team groups@sfad.org.uk.

Helpline Over The Holidays & Support Booklet

Our Helpline Over the Holidays

  • Helpline will run as normal and close on – Friday 22nd December
  • Normal service delivery to resume – Wednesday 3rd January

If you need any support over the holidays, you can contact:

  • NHS 111 – 111
  • Breathing Space – 0800 83 85 87
  • Samaritans – 116 123
  • Police Scotland – 101 (for non-emergencies)
  • If it’s an emergency please call 999

Support Booklet

We share our heartfelt support and guidance to every family member across Scotland who is dealing with challenging circumstances this year. The constant stream of festive cheer everywhere we go, coupled with the pressure to have a traditional celebration can make this season particularly difficult for those of us struggling.

Remember, it’s okay to prioritise self-care and set boundaries for your own well-being. Connect with trusted friends, family, or support groups, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if needed. The team wishes you resilience, strength, and moments of peace through this holiday season.

This short booklet shares our Helpline over Christmas and some helpful contacts. We also have some information for planning for Christmas, along with a beautiful written piece from Antonia Rolls.

Read our support booklet here

The Scottish Families Snowflake

Our lovely family member, Amanda Barr, has created another illustration for us to use this winter. We chose a snowflake as they are all unique, like every family in Scotland affected by alcohol and drugs. Amanda felt very connected to this image and we just want to give our heartfelt thanks to her for making something so wonderful.

Grief at Christmas

Christmas or any other holiday period can be a hard time for people experiencing bereavement. Whether it is your first holiday without your loved one, or if you have had many, it can be a tough time of year. We are regularly told, through TV, songs and social media that Christmas is a time to be with family, which can make you miss your loved one more. You may find that your emotions feel less controlled – people have described feeling ‘irrationally’ angry at things; bursting into tears for no reason and feeling particularly anxious at this time of year – perhaps anxious about how to get through the ‘festivities’. The pressure to be enjoying yourself can exacerbate these feelings. These feelings are all normal and you are not alone this Christmas – many families are facing similar concerns.

Some tips for ‘getting through’ Christmas when you are grieving someone:

Plan what you want to do ahead of time: have a think about who you want to be with (if anyone), what you want to be involved with, and what you don’t. Communicate this ahead of time to those around you. Also, think about what you want to do and don’t be scared to change up traditions if it is too painful to do the same thing, for example, you might want to go out somewhere rather than stay at home.

Do things differently: If you usually do all the cooking but don’t feel up to it this year, ask someone else to do it or go out for a meal. Relieve yourself of responsibilities that feel unmanageable.

Write down your anxieties and make plans on how to cope with them: sometimes when we write down the things we are worried about it can lessen our anxiety. It can also help us to problem solve and plan how we are going to deal with them, so nothing comes as a surprise. For example, if you are worried you will get upset in front of others, a solution for this may be to let those you will be with know that this is a concern and that you plan to remove yourself from the room if this happens. Maybe also discuss with them what they can do if this happens – if you want to be left alone, or if you want someone to leave the room with you.

It is okay to ‘opt out’ of the festivities: if you are not feeling up to it, it is okay to remove yourself, either for the whole planned event, or for parts of it. Do what feels right for you.

Allow yourself time to grieve: it is okay to feel sad at Christmas, or any other time of year. Pretending you are not can be exhausting.

‘Involve’ your loved one who has died: have a think about if and how you want to ‘involve’ your loved one who has died. It might be nice to dedicate some time to sharing memories of them or to write a letter to them. If you feel you want to involve them in the day, then do.

Be kind to yourself: grief is difficult and tiring. Try to look after yourself emotionally, physically and practically. If you are struggling with any of it, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Don’t feel guilty for enjoying yourself: moments of enjoyment or happiness don’t diminish your grief. Enjoy these moments of respite from your grief and try not to feel guilty for them.


When we have lost someone we love, Christmas will never be the same.

At this time of year, when families can feel pressure and isolation at a time when smiles and joy are expected, we are coming together to shine our light.

Each light on our online tree represents the love we have for our families, wherever they are.

With Scottish Families no-one needs to feel alone. Every donation to our tree will help make sure we are here when they need us, the leading charity in Scotland providing expert support for families.

Will you help us by donating and dedicating a Light of Love and Memory?

From Antonia Rolls – “The legacy from my son is sorrow, love, courage and gratitude.”

I have lost my son. I lost him many years ago, while he was still alive. I kept hoping that he would come back, that I would find him again, that somehow he would have the will to leave the drugs and drink behind, but he could not.

The months before he died, he seemed to wake up, and look around him at the world he had created for himself. I thought, “He is coming back, there is hope.” We talked from the heart, and he admitted he had drink and drug problems, as if I did not know, but until that point, he denied it all. Despite falling over in the street, despite running into the traffic screaming and trying to take his clothes off, despite all the calls to the emergency services from members of the public terrified of his strange behaviour, my son did not agree that he took drugs and drank alcohol. Even after a short stay at my house once, when I uncovered five empty litre bottles of vodka hidden in his room, he said they must have been someone else’s. Even when I had to ban him from coming home and block his number because I was frightened of him, he said he didn’t drink and take drugs. “I’m in control,” he said, when patently, he was not.

A week before he died, he came to stay, bringing his partner. Somehow, in the chaos and squalor of his life, amidst the dirt and darkness of his flat, with the overflowing loo and broken windows, the months of dirty crockery in the sink and the piles of old rotting food under foot, someone came into his life and wanted to look after him. A miracle, I thought. Another lost, lonely young man, who had been where my son was, stepped into his life and tried to help. A miracle, I thought, a miracle. Now I know there is hope.

But the darkness of addiction is not so easily put away. The years of increasing dependency on substances and drink wove a powerful, destructive, paranoid and lonely blanket of hopelessness around him. Sometimes, he remembered that he was more than all this, but the pull of the drugs, the intense need for more and more, addled his brain and his body, so that at 29 he was like an old man with Alzheimer’s. Until his partner took him in hand and cleaned him up, he would not wash or change his clothes for months. He would sleep where he fell and forget to eat because the vodka was all he wanted.

For a long time I did not know what I was seeing when he began to spiral out of control. It began in his teens. He was lonely, he was different, he was gay and didn’t want me to know but I did know. And I didn’t care, but it seemed to be too much for him to make public. This was why bringing his partner home for a week just before he died was so wonderful. Not only that he had found love, but that he saw that we all only cared that he was happy. It blew his mind a bit, and I know it made him happy. As happy as someone who was falling further and further into the darkness could be.

When I found him on that Friday in February, on his sofa in that dark and lonely flat, dead and cold, his bottle of vodka next to him, a used needle on the table, I knew the crazy was over. The worst and the best had happened. His life was over and he was gone but he had escaped the torment of living and had become free of pain forever.

My beautiful son, so troubled and so different, had left the mayhem of his life and had gone where nothing and no one could hurt him again. Sitting in his flat with him before the police and ambulance came, I thought that the darkness that had become like a suffocating fog cutting out all the light had got his body and his mind but it had not got his soul. He had gone the only way he felt he could and left this world. The darkness could not and would not follow him. It had lost him, and he was free.

The paradox is that I miss him so much, but also the madness is over. I don’t fear calls from numbers withheld or from numbers I don’t recognise any more. I do not have panic filled days and nights when he is found overdosing, or nearly dead in a squalid flat, or when he is frightened for his life from shadowy and vicious people that know where he lives. He is completely safe and beyond all that.

We gave him such a wonderful funeral. We had to wait until he was released by the coroner, and his inquest is still ongoing as I write. I don’t have a death certificate for him yet. But we gave him such a send-off, he came back in his coffin to spend the last night in my house with his family, and all the friends and people who wouldn’t make a church funeral came to say goodbye. After his funeral the next day, we drove to the cemetery in the beautiful Sussex Downs and buried him next to his grandmother and uncle. As we arrived at the cemetery, a storm of such ferocity blew up that we could hardly stand in the wind and rain. We all thought it was his way of saying goodbye. It was utterly biblical.

So now, what do I have? I have the memory of a beautiful, troubled soul who was with me for just 29 years.

I have the joy of all the times – and there were times especially towards the end – when he and I truly saw each other. I caught a glimpse of his soul, and he told me he loved me. I am grateful for the hard lessons he taught me. I believe that after the dust has settled when we have lost someone we love, we can see the gifts they left us. I am just beginning to sense the gifts my son has left me, and they involve love, and courage, and learning not to judge, and understanding that though love is important, it cannot save. My son left this earth through a door into such brilliant brightness and I like to think that he did not fully close that door behind him. Sometimes, I think I can see him in my mind’s eye, on the other side of that door, smiling and well and whole in the most wonderful rehab that nothing on this earth could match.

The legacy from my son is sorrow, love, courage and gratitude.

If you’d like to follow Antonia or read more of her work, visit her website here.


When we have lost someone we love, Christmas will never be the same.

At this time of year, when families can feel pressure and isolation at a time when smiles and joy are expected, we are coming together to shine our light.

Each light on our online tree represents the love we have for our families, wherever they are.

With Scottish Families no-one needs to feel alone. Every donation to our tree will help make sure we are here when they need us, the leading charity in Scotland providing expert support for families.

Will you help us by donating and dedicating a Light of Love and Memory?

Christmas Time for Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs

As the holiday season approaches, we share our heartfelt support and guidance to every family member across Scotland who is dealing with challenging circumstances this year. The constant stream of festive cheer everywhere we go, coupled with the pressure to have a traditional celebration can make this season particularly difficult for those of us struggling. Remember, it’s okay to prioritise self-care and set boundaries for your own well-being. Connect with trusted friends, family, or support groups, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if needed. The team wishes you resilience, strength, and moments of peace through this holiday season.

We have some tips for navigating the festive season when you are dealing with someone else’s alcohol or drug use.

Plan Ahead

We can’t say this enough – planning ahead is vital. Often, family members say they’re waiting to see what happens. They’ll wait for this or that with regards to their loved one, but we encourage you to make plans that suit you and only you. Don’t wait to see what your loved one is or isn’t doing. If you are doing this, the stress will build and you will create these expectations of ‘maybe they can get it together for that one day and it’ll be lovely’ but the reality is probably going to be quite different and quite difficult.

Make plans that prioritise your own wellbeing and stress levels. Whether that’s having a traditional meal, a relaxed day in your pyjamas, or something entirely different. Choose what suits you and your family without waiting for your loved one’s behaviour to shape the day. This helps you get into a space where you can look at this day of the year as not being something that you just have to get through, but something you can actually find a bit of enjoyment in.

Look After You

We know self-care is a buzzword and is thrown around a lot, but it is a vital tool for you. It’s about recognising what makes you feel better and helps you with your mental health. Self-care can be as simple as a hot bath, going a walk on a cold winter day, watching your favourite film (doesn’t have to be Christmas-related) or spending time with a friend.

The key is to prioritise your needs because that is so important. Self-care is not selfish.

Thoughtful Gift-Giving

When it comes to gift-giving, consider practicality with the plans you are making about buying gifts for a loved one who might be using alcohol or drugs. Christmas is a time where we often feel that we have to be over-generous and let our guard down, but if you are giving a gift to someone who is not in a good place in terms of their substance use, an extravagant gift might be something they see as a way to access more alcohol or drugs by selling it on or using it in a way you hadn’t intended for.

Instead, plan ahead and think about practical gifts. They could be gifts related to essential needs like food or shopping. Sometimes we feel under more pressure to give money as gifts, and that’s never a good idea when someone’s in a state of mind that they might want to spend that on something that’s harmful to them.

So think about how you can avoid doing that or avoid being put in the position where you feel like you’ve got to do that.

It’s crucial to set budget boundaries you’re comfortable with to avoid disappointment if the gift is misused.

Including Your Loved One

While it’s wonderful to include your loved one in celebrations, be prepared for the possibility that their substance use may lead to lapses or relapses during the festive season. We encourage you to be realistic and plan. Think in your mind that this is quite likely to happen, so how do I deal with that? What tools do I have in place now? This proactive approach, combined with self-care, can help manage expectations and reduce stress.

Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries is essential, especially when it comes to communication. We suggest being realistic about when you’re available and not allowing your phone to dictate your peace of mind. Set boundaries that are manageable for you and help reduce stress.

You should not feel that it’s your responsibility to have the ‘perfect Christmas’. If it doesn’t go to plan, it’s nothing that you have done or should have done. It is what it is. And it’s about how to pick yourself back up again from that disappointment and try to still make the best of the situation.

Advice from a Family Member

We asked a family member to share bits of advice and information about their Christmas: ‘I love Christmas and I always have and have always tried to make it special. As I’ve got older though, I’ve started to put less pressure on myself to focus on one day, where I usually end up exhausted and missing everything because I’m in the kitchen half the day. Last year wasn’t easy with my son, and he was out for a big part of the day and then the police were involved on Boxing Day. So this year we’ve decided to do something different, take the pressure off ourselves so that if things don’t go as planned it won’t really matter.’

Some Things to Consider

Simplify the Celebration: Consider breaking away from tradition by ordering takeout or simplifying the meal. The focus should be on enjoying the day and reducing the pressure of preparing an elaborate feast.

Invite Supportive Guests: If you’re worried about judgement or negative interactions, invite family members who understand your situation and can provide emotional support during the day.

Flexible Timing: Prepare meals in advance, allowing you to eat whenever you want, freeing up time for activities you enjoy.

Christmas is a time for joy and celebration, but it can also be challenging for families affected by alcohol and drugs. The key to navigating this season is planning ahead, practicing self-care, and setting realistic expectations.

Remember that support is available through Scottish Families, and you’re not alone in facing these challenges. You survived every hard day up to this point, so you can do it. With the right tools and support, you can make Christmas more manageable and less stressful.

Winter Learning and Development Courses with Scottish Families

We are running three new sessions from our head office in Glasgow throughout November and December. Our office is Edward House, 199 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3EX.

Traditionally, we have offered courses to one workplace at a time or been commissioned by an agency. These new sessions are exciting because you can book on individually – a bit more of an ‘à la carte’ approach! 

Introduction to Supporting Families

Next Session: Monday 20th November 10am – 12pm (2 Hours) 

Price: £35 per participant 

Booking: https://www.trybooking.com/uk/events/landing/48514 

Are you looking to take your first steps in developing your knowledge about why families need support? 

Our Introduction to Supporting Families course is perfect for you. Learn about the unique needs and experiences of family members and understand how empathy and listening skills are so important to family support.  

This course is a beginner level and designed to be a first step for anyone who would like to find out about families affected by alcohol and drugs. 

This training is for you if you’re: a family member; a healthcare professional; a social worker; a member of the drug & alcohol workforce; an employer; a volunteer, a student; a policy maker, a politician; a community leader; or an interested member of the public. 

What do we cover?
  • Recognise that families need support and how this can be different to that for the alcohol or drug user. 
  • Discuss family members’ experiences and needs, and how family members can support recovery. 
  • Relate empathy and listening skills to family support. 
  • Identify local support options for family members. 
Why is this important?

Understanding the needs of impacted family members is crucial to offering effective support and compassion. This training shows true family experiences, providing a view of the often complex lives and routines of day-to-day life.  

And it offers some solutions – how to listen with empathy, what support is on offer, and how this can make an enormous difference in the lives of family members. 

Facilitating a Support Group 

Next Session: Monday 27th November 9:30am – 1pm (3.5 Hours) 

Price: £55 per participant 

Booking: https://www.trybooking.com/uk/events/landing/48801 

Are you interested in running a support group? 

Our Facilitating a Support Group training is perfectly suited to helping you explore the skills and knowledge you will need to effectively lead a support group. 

We touch on some of the core things involved in running a group, including how to structure and manage a group.  

This course is for anyone looking to run any type of support group – families, members of the workforce, running peed-led recovery groups, and more. 

What do we cover?

By completing this training, you will be able to: 

  • Recognise and understand the role of the facilitator in peer-led family support. 
  • Identify and develop group ground rules and appropriate policies and procedures such as confidentiality and safeguarding. 
  • Discuss and identify potential challenges in the group and the best ways to resolve these. 
  • Identify key planning skills to structure and manage support group meetings. 
  • Identify ways of getting feedback from group members to make sure they are getting the right support. 
Why is this important?

Running groups can feel daunting and uncertain at first, so it’s important to think about a solid foundation. 

This course will arm you with the skills you need to feel confident and assured in designing and running a structured support meeting. 

Family Inclusive Practice 

Next Session: Wednesday 6th December 9:30am – 1pm (3.5 Hours) 

Price: £55 per participant 

Booking: https://www.trybooking.com/uk/events/landing/48802 

Are you interested in an in-depth look at how best to include families in your work? 

Family Inclusive Practice is about how professionals in the workforce actively involve a person’s family and social networks in their care, are proactive in asking about the needs of the whole family, and make sure all family members are supported. 

This course is designed to be an in-depth look at all aspects of families support needs, what we are aiming for within Scotland, and how practitioners can adapt innovative approaches to best include families. 

This course is designed for members of the workforce.  

This includes: practitioners working in the drug and alcohol support sector; healthcare professionals; social workers; service managers; volunteers; and students. 

What do we cover?

By completing this training, you will be able to: 

  • Define family inclusive practice. 
  • Recognise family inclusive practice in relation to the evidence base, ROSC development and the Quality Principles in service delivery. 
  • Recognise the value of lived experience of family members and their support needs. 
  • Develop an understanding of the required qualities and skills to effectively engage with families. 
  • Identify opportunities to include families to support whole family recovery. 
  • Identify practical strategies to work with families and overcome barriers to family engagement. 
Why is this important?

Including and supporting families is a key focus in Scotland and is associated with positive outcomes for everyone. 

This course helps to explore the small, manageable steps practitioners can take towards achieving this and strive towards true family-inclusion. 

The Family Recovery College – October 2023 Course and Spring 2024 Course

The Family Recovery College offers a free informal 12-week course, Understanding Substance Use and Holding on to Hope, for anyone living in Scotland who is concerned about someone else’s alcohol or drug use. We will support you to build knowledge, skills, and confidence to support yourself and your loved one.

Our Autumn 2023/ Winter 2024 course, beginning Tuesday 24th October, is now full. If you had hoped to join this course, please do fill out our expression of interest form. We will contact you to acknowledge receipt, ensure you have access to the support you need now, and to discuss a place on the Spring 2024 course.

Our Spring 2024 course is now open for expressions of interest. The Spring 2024 course will take place online every Tuesday between 7pm and 9pm, starting on Tuesday 12th March 2024 and finishing on Tuesday 28th May 2024. You can fill out an expression of interest form here.

You can also contact either Debra Nelson: 07379830357/debra@sfad.org.uk or Tich Watson: 07775252380/richard@sfad.org.uk for more information.

Eligibility:

Anyone who is affected by another person’s drug or alcohol use is warmly welcomed – that includes biological and non-biological families, BAME families, LGBT+ people and families, families with or without children, friends, partners, siblings, young people, older people, foster carers, kinship carers, neighbours, work colleagues, etc.

If you are a professional working in this field and interested in this course please contact Susie McClue susie@sfad.org.uk as we are developing a parallel opportunity for you.

This course will be delivered online using Zoom so that as many people can join us regardless of location. We will do our best to ensure everyone can get online whatever their circumstance may be.

We hope to make the Family Recovery College accessible to all.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if there is anything additional we can do to make you feel welcomed and included.

What is the Family Recovery College?

The Family Recovery College offers a free informal 12-week course, Understanding Substance Use and Holding on to Hope, for anyone living in Scotland who is concerned about someone else’s alcohol or drug use. We will support you to build knowledge, skills, and confidence to support yourself and your loved one.

The course will take place online every Tuesday between 7pm and 9pm, starting on the 24th October and finishing on Tuesday 30th Jan 2024. The course will take a short break from Tuesday 19th December 2023 until Tuesday 2nd Jan 2024, resuming on Tuesday 9th Jan 2023.

Students on the course will:
  • Increase their positive connection with others
  • Develop communication strategies to improve relationships
  • Improve self-care and emotional wellbeing
  • Improve understanding of substance use through new knowledge and skills
  • Feel empowered to influence change in their lives and the lives of their loved one

We developed this course in Spring 2019 with a group of family members who have their own lived experience of supporting a loved one with problematic drug/alcohol use. These course advisors worked with us to design, deliver and evaluate the project to ensure that it was helpful and relevant to participants’ needs. The course ran for the first time in the Summer of 2019 and has been adapted to respond to the evaluations we have received from participants after each course.

Eligibility:

Anyone who is affected by another person’s drug or alcohol use is warmly welcomed – that includes biological and non-biological families, BAME families, LGBT+ people and families, families with or without children, friends, partners, siblings, young people, older people, foster carers, kinship carers, neighbours, work colleagues, etc.
If you are a professional working in this field and interested in this course please contact us (susie@sfad.org.uk ) as we are developing a parallel opportunity for you.

This course will be delivered online using Zoom so that as many people can join us regardless of location. We will do our best to ensure everyone can get online whatever their circumstance may be. We hope to make the Family Recovery College accessible to all. Please do not hesitate to contact us if there is anything additional we can do to make you feel welcome and included.

Why the Family Recovery College is important:

Families and concerned significant others often take on the primary role of caring for or supporting their loved one. Due to the secrecy, shame and stigma of supporting a loved one with problematic drug and alcohol use often there is little acknowledgement or support for those doing the supporting. Many people find themselves experiencing long-term mental health and physical health conditions, often related to the challenges and stress of their caring role. We hope that the Family Recovery College will enable students to feel empowered to support both themselves and their loved one.

Please note: If you have any concerns or difficulties completing this form please phone us to complete an expression of interest over the phone – Debra  07379830357 or Tich 07775252380.

The programme is certificated by Scottish Families as the Scottish Government’s Nationally Commissioned Organisation (NCO) for families affected by alcohol or drug use.

UK Government Cannot Continue To Ignore The Case For Change

Scottish Families Response to Home Affairs Committee Report on Drugs published 31.08.23

Justina Murray, CEO of Scottish Families

Scottish Families welcomes today’s cross-party report on Drugs published by the Home Affairs Committee at Westminster. The Committee members, the majority of whom are Conservative MPs, have taken the time to collect a wide range of evidence about drug use and drug harm from across the UK and overseas. This includes written and oral evidence, and visits to see what is going on in different parts of the UK. On the basis of all of this evidence, they have made a series of important recommendations to reduce drug harm for individuals, families and communities.

It is notable that all of these recommendations have been made before, including by the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster, the Dame Carol Black’s Independent Review of Drugs, the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce, Scottish Families’ own Family Reference Group (who published a companion report to the Taskforce report), and more locally based bodies such as the Dundee Drugs Commission and Renfrewshire Alcohol and Drugs Commission. All of these bodies also examined the national and international evidence base before reaching the same conclusions.

Families affected by a loved one’s drug use have repeatedly shown their support for any measures which reduce harm, including overdose prevention centres, drug-checking, a trauma-informed (not justice) response, and for diversionary measures to ensure their loved ones get the support they need, rather than a criminal record. Most families we support have experience of their loved ones getting involved in the justice system, and they say this has never resulted in positive outcomes, and indeed it has increased harm for the individual and for the wider family. Thousands of family members and members of the public in Scotland now carry naloxone provided by Scottish Families’ Click and Deliver service, so that they can save a life.

Harm reduction measures such as those proposed by the Home Affairs Committee have a strong international evidence base that they reduce drug deaths, harm and risk, consequently improving the lives of individuals, families and communities.

Justina Murray, CEO of Scottish Families Affected by Drugs, said:

“It is difficult to see how the UK Government can continue to ignore the case for change. The 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act is woefully out of date. Overdose prevention centres (or safe drug consumption facilities) are proven to reduce harm and save lives, not only as seen overseas but also through Peter Krykant’s overdose prevention van in Glasgow which was independently and positively evaluated. Drug-checking is already operational at festivals, and through the Welsh service Wedinos, reducing the risk of drugs not being what they seem. Scotland has led the way in the UK by rolling out naloxone supply at large scale to families and others likely to witness opioid overdose, with Police Scotland now the first force in the UK to routinely carry naloxone as part of their kit.

“Drugs policy already sits within a public health, not criminal justice, framework in Scotland, showing this can be done without diminishing the focus on tackling drugs supply by organised crime groups and criminal gangs. We have heroin assisted treatment available in Glasgow as well as elsewhere in the UK – again with a strong evidence base that this works well with this patient group, saving lives, improving lives and reducing crime. Police arrest referral and diversion schemes are in operation across the UK, although as the Committee notes, there is unfortunately a postcode lottery, meaning some people are being unnecessarily criminalised and not able to access the support they need, just because of where they live. None of this needs to be tested, piloted or demonstrated as safe or effective, as this has already been done. We just need to see it happen. Surely now the UK Government will listen and take action to save lives?”

Families want actions not words to reduce alcohol deaths

Today it was announced that there were 1,276 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland in 2022 – this is a 2% rise from the previous year. Over the past decade alone almost 11,000 people have died due to alcohol – well in excess of Scotland’s drug death toll, but with nothing like the same emergency response.

On paper, the Scottish Government has made bold commitments to act on alcohol availability, price and marketing, and to ensure everyone who needs treatment and support for their alcohol use can get this.

Yet there has been little action since the introduction of Scotland’s flagship policy on Minimum Unit Pricing which came into force in May 2018 (over five years ago), with the original legislation passed in 2012 (over a decade ago).

Whether they are living every day with their loved one’s drinking, supporting them in recovery, or mourning their loss through alcohol, families report shrinking treatment and support options, and the ongoing harm of Scotland’s Alcohol Everywhere culture. For example:

  • The delay in implementing Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) due to industry legal action, alongside the lack of any automatic uprating mechanism, has reduced the impact of this evidence-based policy. The current unit price of 50p (set over a decade ago) is now woefully outdated.
  • Families describe alcohol as being “everywhere” and “in your face, no matter where you look”, with alcohol availability and high impact marketing from coffee shops to bookshops, cinemas, workplaces, educational establishments, and community and sports events. There are almost no Alcohol Free Spaces in Scotland for families and communities to enjoy.
  • A consultation on marketing which closed almost six months ago is yet to result in any action, with the First Minister publicly sympathising with the industry’s concerns about any mandatory marketing restrictions.
  • Access to specialist alcohol treatment has fallen by 40% over the past decade (with three-quarters of this reduction pre-pandemic). Families are facing huge challenges trying to access effective alcohol treatment and support for their loved ones, leaving them isolated, exhausted and under extreme pressure to keep their loved ones alive.

We have quite rightly seen an emergency response to Scotland’s drug deaths, with a National Drugs Mission, £250 million of new investment and clear expectations of what services should be delivering.

We are calling for an equivalent response to Scotland’s alcohol emergency including;

  • An equal financial investment to ensure a choice of high quality specialist alcohol treatment, care and support services for anyone concerned about their drinking, and their families, no matter where they live in Scotland;
  • An uprating of the Minumum Unit Price to at least 65p, with a future uprating mechanism built in;
  • Clear action on alcohol availability and marketing, to ensure Alcohol Free Spaces are the norm and individuals and families are protected from industry’s ‘Everyday Alcohol’ pressures.

Justina Murray, CEO of Scottish Families, said:

“In Scotland we are absolutely world-leading at writing down all the things we are going to change and improve to tackle Scotland’s deathly relationship with alcohol. But we are bottom of the league tables for action. There is an enormous gap between our bold intent to save thousands of families from further heartbreak and the daily reality of lives destroyed by alcohol right across Scotland.

We need urgent and immediate action – not more words – to change Scotland’s Alcohol Everywhere culture, and to make sure everyone concerned about their drinking can get the treatment and support they need.

Alcohol deaths are easy to prevent – the World Health Organisation has identified three ‘best buys’ for governments in terms of alcohol availability, price and marketing. Alongside investment in good quality alcohol treatment and support, this will save millions of pounds in social, economic, health and human costs.

Our families deserve nothing less.”

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