Renfrewshire Community Planning Partnership’s Alcohol and Drugs Commission, created in March this year is one of the first of its kind in Scotland.
The partnership is working to build a true picture of alcohol and drug use across Renfrewshire to help improve life outcomes for people in our communities.
Cllr Jacqueline Cameron looks back on the first six months of the Commission.
Over the past few meetings, it has been good to see how enthusiastic the Commission members are about our aims – and while everyone has their own specific area of interest, it feels very much like we are a united group with a common goal. Commission meetings are alive with debate, discussion and ideas, and I have my work cut out as a Chair to ensure everyone’s voice is heard; which is a very positive problem to have.
Many of us have met with staff, service users and their families. I have found this a truly eye-opening, at times emotional, and wholly uplifting experience. Not only has this given us as Commission members an opportunity to get to know each other, it has provided us with a chance to hear first-hand from those with lived experience, their families and the staff who support them. What came through to me most was how well informed and engaged family members were on national strategy and policy, and that there role is very much a caring one that should be supported. The dedication of staff to provide a respectful, supportive service has been demonstrated in our meetings and I think frontline staff really benefitted from the opportunity to make their views heard.
What I took most from the meetings was that everyone commented on the stigma faced by people using drugs, particularly. It was saddening to see how much the words that people use, hurt; words that so easily trip off the tongue when people only see the addiction and not the person. It is clear that people would like to see a robust campaign to tackle this stigma, in the way that we have approached the stigma of mental ill health. I think this will be a challenge but I would like to see Renfrewshire at the forefront of facing this head on. I was so grateful for service users allowing us as guests into their forums: at times I felt like I was invading their safe space but by the end of each session, we had all opened up to each other, which was both humbling and moving.
Our next few meetings are crucial as we will be setting out our recommendations – the tangible outcomes that we said from the start we wanted to achieve. We have a wonderful facilitator in Professor Phil Hanlon, who keeps us on track, to ensure the discussion and debate moves in a direction where we make decisions and look at how it will change practice in Renfrewshire.
The Commission has many skilled members and we are lucky to have them. Many sit on the national Drugs Deaths Task Force, including Professor Catriona Matheson who chairs the national taskforce, so we have a direct link to what’s happening in terms of approaches to tackling drug and alcohol use at a national level.
I look forward to learning what our recommendations for the future will be, and to hearing how we will continue to make lives better for people and their families living with drug and alcohol use across Renfrewshire.