Harm Reduction Training Programme

10 April 2023
Over 12 weeks we worked in partnership with Scottish Drugs Forum to deliver a harm reduction training programme to people with living experience of substance use and homelessness in Glasgow City Centre.

“We know that people need opportunities and purpose to move out of homelessness and away from addiction. This  partnership with the people we support and the Scottish Drug Forum has provided hope and a real opportunity for meaningful change. There is a lot of learning for us with and from all the participants and I am excited to see that learning shaping what we and they each do next.”   Lorraine McGrath CEO

Over 12 weeks Scottish Drugs Forum and Simon Community Scotland worked in partnership to deliver a harm reduction training programme to people with living experience of substance use and homelessness in Glasgow City Centre.

A number of people who were already linked in with our We See You programme, our Women’s Group, and our City Centre Engagement Group were identified and invited to take part in the training programme. This programme recognises the limited opportunities available to people with living experience to move into education or employment and build upon their social capital.  It also wanted to ensure that people who were using substances had access to up-to-date and evidence-based education and information on harm reduction to ensure people using substances had the knowledge to keep safe, and share this information in their community.  

“Watching people come together and enhance the skills that they’ve picked up throughout their lives was beautiful to witness and gives me hope for the future generations.” Jim Thomson, Service Lead, We See You

Over 12 weeks we designed and delivered a cohesive training programme centred around key harm reduction topics. People with living experience of substance use continuously report the absence of pathways into further education, volunteering or employment, and this programme sought to address this. This programme also sought to strengthen the voice of living experience by bringing all three living experience groups in the city together into one programme – to strengthen feedback into the National Collaborative.

We created an inclusive, welcoming and accessible space for people who face ongoing exclusion from services, to come together and learn about evidence based harm reduction information. Simon Community Scotland has a commitment to bringing in voices of living experience, and through this collaboration, we have been able to provide a formal structure for people to engage in a community of learning. 


The programme was delivered on a Thursday afternoon between 2pm – 4pm at the SDF building on Mitchell Street, Glasgow.  It was facilitated by Jason Wallace & Lynn Couper from Scottish Drug Forum and our own Claire Longmuir, Hannah Boyle and Jim Thomson.

Each week, participants were invited to come together for 2 hours and learn about the following topics:

  • the philosophy of harm reduction,
  • the Big Three (cocaine, benzodiazepines and heroin),
  • the Medication Assisted Treatment Standards,
  • overdose awareness and management for stimulants and opioids,
  • Blood Borne Virus awareness,
  • wound care awareness and safer use of substances. 

All participants were trained in the use of Naloxone and how to respond to overdose and continue to carry their Naloxone kits in the community. This was a paid opportunity with participants receiving £20 and lunch to attend the programme. 

This programme aligned with SVQ learning outcomes, to allow individuals to move into further education after completion of the course. Participants engaged in developing their communication skills, participating in group work; discussions; research and presentation; critical thinking and the critiquing of existing harm reduction resources.


We worked with 11 individuals who have now graduated from the programme. We have learned about the importance of investing in communities with living experience and providing tangible, structured opportunities to engage in to allow people space to recognise the worth and value that they bring to the field.

This community of learning has not only provided the opportunity for people to build upon their knowledge of harm reduction, but to have their experiences and the stigma and exclusion they have faced heard and validated. Through this programme, we have witnessed firsthand the importance of centering the voices of those with living experience and providing pathways to allow people to achieve meaningful change within their lives. Feedback from one participant referred to the programme as a ‘lifeline’ for her – and offered her the knowledge and opportunity to learn, develop and connect with others. 

“It has been a privilege to support the delivery of this programme and to see people learn, grow and recognise the importance of their skills and expertise. This collaborative programme has evidenced the importance of centring the voices of people with living experience and providing pathways for people to move into structured opportunities in the future. I am filled with pride at every individual who has attended and will be graduating today.”

Hannah Boyle, Women’s Harm Reduction Coordinator