Side by side, through thick & thin

Megan Thomson, Service Lead for the Intensive Outreach Support Team

Our Intensive Outreach Support Team, Megan pictured centre

We are always looking for good news stories and good outcomes to highlight the amazing work we do. Sadly today was not the day for that. The polar opposite in fact. Today was a tough day, with the worst possible outcome. Today we lost one of our people. 

Call him what you will.. service user, client, complex, vulnerable.. but he was a person. A father, a son, a brother, a partner, a friend. Someone we have worked with across RSVP (Rough Sleepers and Vulnerable People) for over 10 years. We talk about ‘stickability’ and ‘walking beside someone’. Our team has gone through a few pairs of shoes on this particular walk! 

We were by this gentleman’s side in good times, when life was going great and we all had hope. We were there through the bad times, which, sadly, there were many more of … the overdoses, the hospital stays, the periods in prison. 

From sleeping on the streets to accommodation after accommodation after accommodation. We’ve been there.. by his side.. taking the brunt of his trauma and anger and frustration.. His Support Worker was by his side. 

When his partner found him today… she phoned that worker.. because she’s family. As soon as that call came through, we rallied; support workers, caseworkers, managers. We rallied. 

We covered supports, we juggled to make sure everyone still got the support they needed, but we rallied. We went straight to that person and made sure we were by their side. Hurting at our own loss, our whole service rallied. 

Tomorrow our team will wake up and go back to what they do best. We will all be sad and hurting and will still process how we lost another of our valued, funny, damaged, complex, kind, caring people. Another person, sadly gone too soon. 

But we will get up with passion and humour and as a team we will look after each other. And we will be there for the young man’s partner left behind. Because that is what we do. It’s what we do well. Not because we are paid to do it, because we care. Because our team cares. About each other and the people we support. That’s why it hurts. 

This team is amazing. The work they do is amazing. The difference they make is amazing. 

My team of 8 support over 80 people across the city ‘where they are at’. From the streets to B&B’s, we go where people need us to be. We go to them. At a time that suits them. We keep trying. We don’t stop. We chip away and build relationships with people who have lost faith and trust in services. We keep going. Non-engagement isn’t a reason for us to walk away. That just doesn’t cut it. We see it as a challenge. 

We just need to be creative. Persistent and consistent!

Simon Community Scotland launches ‘harm reduction’ app for women

Simon Community Scotland (SCS) has teamed up with tech consultancy AND Digital to provide easy-to-access evidence-based harm reduction support, advice and resources to people using the charity’s services, through their first ever digital app called ‘By My Side.’  

Angela Constance, the Scottish Government Minister for Drugs Policy, today (Thursday 26 May) visited the SCS Access Hub in Glasgow to meet women who use the charity’s services and find out how the By My Side app is helping them.

The app came as a result of AND Digital’s Glasgow office, known as the Almeida Club, partnering with Simon Community Scotland. Staff, known as “ANDi’s” volunteer for the charity, offering their digital skills and expertise to create this first of its kind digital resource for people supported by SCS. 

Designed ‘for women, by women’, the By My Side app has been co-developed with women supported by SCS, directly addressing the challenges they face in gaining access to the right information. 

Initially focused on advice to prevent drug-related harm, the app is now home to wider resources such as mental health guidance, support for those affected by domestic or sexual violence, and information for managing sexual health. 

By making relevant advice and resources readily available and accessible, the app will support women to make more informed decisions about their health, wellbeing, and safety. 

Development of the By My Side app has led to SCS becoming the official charity partner of AND Digital’s Glasgow office, Club Almeida. AND Digital will continue to provide its expertise across future digital projects and support ongoing work with the organisation. 

The app will launch initially within SCS’s residential women’s services, before being rolled out across the wider organisation and to external partners – many of whom have already contributed material and resources. SCS’s abition is for the platform to become a digital resource that supports key workers and the people they support across the entire Alcohol and Other Drugs field. 

Angela Constance, the Scottish Government Minister for Drugs Policy, said: “We need to pull together all resources to help reduce drugs deaths and harm in Scotland and this easy to access digital app helping women make informed choices about their drug use aligns perfectly with our national mission.

“This work between Simon Community Scotland and ‘AND Digital’ shows how businesses can use their own services and skills to support the third sector and have a positive impact on communities.”

L-R – Nikita Schultz, Peter Dale & Bob Workman from AND Digital, Angela Constance Drugs Minister,
Kelly Innes from AND Digital and Lorraine McGrath, CEO Simon Community Scotland

Lorraine McGrath CEO at Simon Community Scotland said “Women we support face unique challenges and risks simply by being a woman. The By My Side app is uniquely designed from a woman’s perspective providing easy access to  information, advice and support. The app provides specific functions that can not only reduce the risk of having a drug related death but supports women to be safe, be well and be connected.”

Claire Longmuir, Head of Harm Reduction at Simon Community Scotland, said:  “In Scotland, there has been a disproportionate increase in drug related deaths amongst women, especially those aged over 35 years old.  In 2009, women accounted for around a quarter of drug related deaths, they now account for 31%. This is an increase of 293%, from 132 women to 387 women (DTTF, 2021). The reasons for this involve many interconnected factors, but we know for many women it is rooted in experiences of trauma, adversity and loss.

“By opening up a conversation with the women we support, it became clear that there was a real gap in harm reduction knowledge, especially around topics such as safer injecting, overdose and managing wounds. While there is a lot of useful information out there, much of it is aimed at professionals and may not always meet the needs of people who really seek to benefit from it. 

“Stigma was also raised as a concern – specifically that associated with being a woman who uses drugs. Importantly, this app will give women access to high quality information to guide their health decisions, without ever having to go near a service if they don’t want to. It’s about choice. Digital offers people choice and flexibility around how they can access the information, advice and support that feels right for them.” 

Kelly Innes, People Lead at AND Digital’s Glasgow club, said: “Developing this app alongside Simon Community Scotland has been an incredibly rewarding experience. By working closely with the women who will really benefit from access to these resources, we’ve been able to offer a platform which is reflective of real life experiences, while rooted in evidence-based best practice.” 

For further information and interview opportunities with Simon Community Scotland, please contact Murray Easton, murray.easton@simonscotland.org, 07796 349 739.

Welcoming Crescer to Scotland

By Hugh Hill, Director of Services

20 years ago Portugal, in response to increasing drug deaths, took the radical step towards legalising the personal use of drugs and focusing on treatment rather than punishment. The change in approach had a huge impact on drug deaths and now Portugal has one of the lowest figures in Europe, around 6 deaths per million population. In contrast Scotland has 315 deaths per million, the highest in Europe and North America.

Over the last five years we have been actively seeking solutions and approaches to keep the people we support alive and it’s beginning to bear fruit with a dramatic drop in drug deaths in our residential services last year to one, still one too many! 

Still with more to do we looked at Portugal and reached out to Crescer as an organisation we recognised was working on the streets and at the forefront of a harm reduction approach. We met online and what we found was an organisation that was exciting, innovative, committed to people and driven by care and compassion. Straight off the bat we liked them!

The Crescer team arrive in Glasgow

We immediately realised that there was a huge amount we could learn from their work and similarly we could share our work with them, they were very interested in the Managed Alcohol Program. We’ve since set up two online networking events Harm Reduction and Housing First with more planned and at the same time invited some of their team to come join us, enter the lovely Martinho, Ary, Andreia and Catarina who have spent the whole of last week with us.

Over the week I think we’ve collectively managed to drain their heads of every conceivable answer to our questions and there are some really interesting ideas coming forward which we’ll work on over the coming weeks. We’re also really interested in their employment program, how they deliver street outreach, housing first and their work with non Portuguese nationals, they do a lot for a small charity.

We are hoping to continue exchanging staff between our two organisations and build a long term relationship with Crescer. I appreciate it will be a hard sell asking our staff to spend time in Portugal but we’ll try.

Upon arrival their arms were soon filled with furry coo’s, tablet, everything Tunnocks, Steven Brown Coos, TShirts and lots more, thanks to the generosity of our teams. Not only that but the MAP team even had a piper lead them into the service! I think those guys trumped us all. However, more than that, we hope that they will leave Scotland with a genuine sense of the generosity, positive spirit, love and beauty of Scotland and its people. 

Behind all of this loveliness remains the fact that substance use is a huge issue for our guys and behind that is lots of trauma and poverty, of hope and ambition, and that’s what we aim to change. Thank you to our own lovely staff for looking after our Portuguese friends.

The Crescer team at the City Chambers

Get Connected 500 launches!

Simon Community Scotland announce exciting new plans  to transform the lives of 500 people experiencing homelessness through digital inclusion

Simon Community Scotland’s Get Digital Programme is delighted to announce the launch of Get Connected 500! 

Thanks to funding from the Scottish Government and Good Things Foundation’s Power Up Fund (which is financially supported by JP Morgan Chase Foundation), Simon Community Scotland’s national project will connect and support 500 people experiencing homelessness to the digital world.

Each participant in the project will receive a free digital device (a smartphone or a tablet) and unlimited connectivity for 12 months. In addition to free digital technology, frontline workers at Simon Community and partner organisations will be trained as digital champions to provide person centred support based around a digital skills learning framework. 

Helen Milner OBE, Good Things Foundation Group Chief Executive, says: “We’re delighted to be working with Simon Community Scotland and the Scottish Government on Get Connected 500. The success of the first phase of Power Up demonstrated not only the need for support with basic digital skills, but also the potential to help more people live better lives through digital. We know that this project will have a significant impact both on how digital skills support is delivered, and on the lives of those supported.”

Housing Secretary Shona Robison said: “I am delighted the Scottish Government is providing further support to Simon Community Scotland to get people who have experienced homelessness connected to the digital world. Through their work, the Simon Community have shown the importance of digital inclusion as a key way of supporting people to recover from homelessness and achieve life changing outcomes.”

Lorraine McGrath, CEO for Simon Community Scotland said:   “We are thrilled that the Scottish Government and Good Things Foundation are supporting our trailblazing digital inclusion model to help us move it forward at a considerable pace. We have already clearly evidenced the importance of digital inclusion in our previous Get Connected reports. Get Connected 500 is the next step in a journey that will embed digital inclusion as part of the solution to homelessness recovery.”

Jamie Trout, Head of Digital at Simon Community Scotland said: “We are delighted to be given the opportunity to change the lives of a further 500 individuals across the country through our Get Connected model. In our previous projects, we have seen overwhelmingly positive impact and profound life changing outcomes for the people we support and we’re excited to continue this crucial work.”

Simon Community Scotland have been leading on digital inclusion throughout Scotland’s homelessness sector for the past 5 years through their national Get Digital Scotland Programme. 

The Get Connected 500 project will be rolled out in Simon Community Scotland services in Edinburgh and Glasgow and through our Get Digital Partners in Aberdeen (Aberdeen Cyrenians), Perth (Turning Point Perth and CATH), Fife (Frontline), Ayr (Seascape) and Dundee (Transform).

ENDS

For further information and interview opportunities with Simon Community Scotland and potentially with  people taking part in Get Connected 500, please contact Murray Easton, murray.easton@simonscotland.org, 07796 349 739.

Notes to Editor:

  • Simon Community Scotland is the largest provider of homelessness services across the country. The charity helps over 6,000 people a year through their Edinburgh & Glasgow Hubs, Street Teams, Supported Accommodation sites and many other initiatives. https://www.simonscotland.org/ 
  • Our approach at Simon Community Scotland is built around a cycle of learning and improvement. This ensures we carry forward the knowledge and experience gained in our previous projects into Get Connected 500.
  • Almost 34,000 households were assessed as being homeless in Scotland in 2020/21
  • The Scottish Government and Good Things Foundation (funded by JP Morgan Chase Foundation) , along with Simon Community Scotland, have funded this project.

Additional information about Power Up, Good Things, and JP Morgan for notes to editors:

  • Good Things Foundation is the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity. Through a network of community partners – the Online Centres Network – they are helping people to improve their lives through digital. Good Things Foundation helps people gain the support and skills they need to change their lives, and believes that everyone in the UK should have the confidence, skills, support and access to use digital technology, participate in society and benefit from the digital world.
  • Power Up demonstrates JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to address the key drivers of inclusive growth by making big, long-term investments that directly leverage our firm’s talent and resources to create a lasting impact in our communities. J.P. Morgan’s commitment in Power Up is also part of its $350 million global five-year commitment to the future of work to help under-served populations develop critical skills for in-demand careers through new investments in education and training programs and building a future-ready workforce by forecasting emerging employee skillsets, career pathways and upskilling opportunities.
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $3.7 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of customers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.jpmorganchase.com 

Information on Simon Community’s previous Get Connected 100 project can be found via;

Life changing stats from Get Connected 100:

What participants said:

  • 96% improved quality of life
  • 91% increased their use of digital tools
  • 92% place more value on connecting to the internet
  • 94% will continue to use digital
  • 99% found Digital Champion support helpful
  • 85% of participants increased engagement in support
  • 100% of participants lives were positively affected

The evidence gathered in our previous Get Connected Projects shows us that digital inclusion is a key factor in homelessness recovery. 


Simon Community Scotland will be publishing reports on the impact of Get Connected 500 – watch this space!

AND Digital partnership launch

Simon Community Scotland are delighted to announce a long-term partnership with AND Digital’s Glasgow Club!

We are also SUPER EXCITED that our team and people we support have been working with the incredible team at AND, who have given up so much of their time, to create a ‘first of its kind’ valuable digital resource.

Murray Easton, Head of Fundraising and Communities at Simon Community Scotland said about the alignment of the two organisations: “Digital Inclusion is one of the strategic drivers across all of our services at Simon Community Scotland. Access to interactive support is vital for people experiencing homelessness. In AND Digital, we have found a partner who is committed to help us with (digital) expertise but also with providing volunteers who assist us with other initiatives across the charity. The local Almeida team members, from the management to all squad members, have been extremely open, collaborative and engaging with our team at Simon Community Scotland. Everything has felt natural, the timing has been perfect and we can’t wait to announce further details in the near future.”

Kelly Innes, People Lead at AND Digital’s Glasgow club commented: “Our partnership with Simon Community Scotland is an incredibly rewarding experience. The project team of ANDis really enjoyed the technical challenges of the project but more importantly, they were fully engaged with the SCS team and were fully invested in helping to develop a tool that will impact many lives in a positive way. During our recent Almeida Club Day, we had the pleasure of collaborating and brain-storming with the SCS team. For all of us at AND, it was a real eye-opener to understand the background and hard work SCS put in on a daily basis and we are delighted to be able to help, in our own small way.” 

Look out for more news within the next month!

About Simon Community

  • Simon Community Scotland is the largest provider of homelessness services across the country. The charity helps over 6,000 people a year through their Edinburgh & Glasgow Hubs, Street Teams, Supported Accommodation sites and many other initiatives. https://www.simonscotland.org/ 
  • Almost 34,000 households were assessed as being homeless in Scotland in 2020/21
  • 13,097 households were in temporary accommodation as at 31/03/21
  • Glasgow is the local authority with the most households assessed as being homeless; around 6,000 per annum. 2,668 households are in temporary accommodation.
  • Source: Scottish Government https://www.gov.scot/publications/homelessness-scotland-2020-2021/ 

About AND Digital 

AND Digital is on a mission to close the world’s digital skills gap. The go-to digital enablement partner for organisations including SKY, DC Thomson, WoodMackenzie and BA, AND Digital empowers organisations with the ability to build digital products AND grow their internal capability along the way. To achieve this, the company blends technical craft and digital product expertise with an award-winning learning and development ethos. 

Ranked 2nd in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work 2022, AND Digital operates an innovative ‘club’ model, represented in Scotland through its Somerville club in Edinburgh and Almeida club in Glasgow. Each club offers a flexible and highly responsive service to its clients, as well as a commitment to the local community in which it is based. 

All ANDis (the collective name for AND Digital employees) are given annual ‘innovation days’ to support local digital projects that they are passionate about. Each club also partners with a local charity to generate positive change in the area. AND Digital currently partners with Simon Community Scotland in Glasgow and RockTrust in Edinburgh, helping to tackle homelessness and poverty across Scotland. 
For more information, please visit: www.and.digital