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Supporting Women, Reducing Harm: Supporting a National Conversation - Inspiring Scotland

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16.06.2022

Supporting Women, Reducing Harm: Supporting a National Conversation

In April, Inspiring Scotland’s Perinatal and Infant Mental Health team co-hosted Supporting Women, Reducing Harm, the first-ever national conversation on how services should care for families affected by substance use in the perinatal period.

This event was in partnership with Scottish Government, Perinatal Mental Health Network Scotland, NHS Scotland, third sectors partners and women with lived experience.  It followed the  2021 report Supporting Women, Reducing Harm.

Evidence shows that using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy and the postnatal period negatively affects the physical and mental health of both mother and infant. There is a recognised need to improve the services available for substance-using women and their infants during this time and this was the starting point for the Supporting Women, Reducing Harm event.

The conversation brought together individuals and organisations with expertise in maternity and child care, substance use, and maternal and infant mental health, alongside women and families with lived experience, to develop recommendations on models of service provision for Scotland.

The attendance of so many stakeholders ensured a dynamic discussion that reflected the broad experiences of the participants. Over 300 people joined the day, representing many different sectors across the breadth and width of Scotland –  the Borders, to the Shetland Isles.

“One of the things that made this event so special was that it brought together a cross-sector audience from Scottish Government, NHS, local authorities, charities and more. Bringing together and leveraging that level of collective insight and experience will be key for unlocking the challenges that face women and families in Scotland.” Leanne Anderson, Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Fund Manager, Inspiring Scotland

Prior to the online session, women with lived experience were interviewed to help shape the agenda and discussions.  During the day, Sharon Graham represented the voices of lived experiences and spoke impactfully, clearly stating that now is the time for action:

“We had a coming together of professionals and lived experience, working in collaboration due to having one thing in common, wanting the best outcome for those we support. The time has come to change the “us and them” scenario and for action to happen.”  Sharon Graham, Voice of Lived Experience

The event had really positive feedback from the attendees:

“This was an incredible, inspirational and truly exceptional event – very heartfelt and it was so good to see how many people were in agreement of supporting women and the challenges life brings to them. Captivating and extraordinary.  So pleased to see the collaborative recognition of this and great to hear from real people with lived experience” Attendee

“The passion and wish to collectively make a change was palpable. It felt like the right feet were around the table.” Attendee

Several key themes emerged:

  • It is important to take the time to listen to women involved and find out what their needs actually are (not to make assumptions)
  • A wide range of third sector organisations play an important role in delivering flexible, non- stigmatising support
  • Joined up services and solid wraparound care are critical as they make it easier to access support and avoid women having to repeat their story multiple times to different services
  • There is a greater awareness of the need to reduce stigma, given the clear impact that stigma has on women and their families accessing services

At the start of the session, Angela Constance MSP, Minister of Drugs Policy, announced a short-life working group to further examine the issues and make recommendations for future support.  Kevin Stewart, Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, closed the day, thanking participants and assuring us all that the work would be taken forward.

In terms of next steps, Scottish Government are currently developing the process for membership of the short-life working group, more information on this will follow in due course, and Inspiring Scotland are creating a report based on all feedback received on the day.

We would like to thank all partners and attendees involved in the event and especially those with lived experience. Thank you for sharing your experiences so openly and honestly to help improve support for families across Scotland.

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