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What is Independent Advocacy

New service for people who use drugs or alcohol

Amy, Collective Advocacy worker for drugs and alcohol in East Lothian.

Hi! I’m Amy, the worker facilitating Collective Advocacy for adults who use drugs or alcohol in East Lothian. Our service has now been running since April 2024. Here’s a quick update on what work we’ve done and what I’ve learned so far.

It can be challenging to get your voice heard or make changes to the services you use. Especially if you feel judged, marginalised or disempowered. Collective Advocacy aims to redress power imbalances and amplify people’s voices.

This Collective Advocacy service is for adults (18-65) who use drugs or alcohol and live in East Lothian. Collective Advocacy for this community has not been available until now. However, CAPS’ Individual Advocacy drug and alcohol workers, have recognised that there are many similar issues faced across the people they have worked with over the four years the Individual service has been running. They tell us that the recovery community is very vocal about the importance of supporting one another. MELD help facilitate that in East Lothian with recovery cafes and smart meetings which are very well attended. MELD workers also told us they feel there would be an interest in Collective Advocacy and that people would engage and find this supportive.

What have we done so far?

I am in the early stages of setting up the project. I have been learning about the wider issues within drug and alcohol use in Scotland. This has been through training from the Scottish Drugs Forum, as well as familiarising myself with the MAT standards (especially as they relate to a legal right to advocacy). I have met with the East Lothian MELD team. And I have been visiting East Lothian recovery cafes in Tranent, Musselburgh, Prestonpans and will soon visit others in Dunbar and Haddington. I have been promoting the new service within organisations in East Lothian, that may be accessed by people who use drugs or alcohol. Many of these cross over with my work as the Collective Advocacy worker with people who have mental health issues. For example Circle, Changes and The Ridge.

I have been with CAPS for six months working with people in East Lothian and Midlothian who have mental health issues. I’m looking forward to extending this to working with those affected by their use of drugs or alcohol on whatever they feel they would like to talk about and take action on. It is a privilege to hear from the local community in East Lothian about their experiences and develop a greater understanding of what’s important to people. I’m looking forward to working with them on affecting change. It has been very encouraging how honest and transparent people have been in speaking about their experiences.

What are the common issues affecting people with drug or alcohol use?

So far what I have learned from speaking to those who use drug and alcohol services, like the recovery cafes, is that the people are very supportive of each other. They find the cafes invaluable in fostering a sense of connection and not feeling isolated, which they feel aids recovery and wellbeing.

People told me they feel there is judgment and stigma outside of these spaces. This can make it hard for people to get what they need when interacting with services (e.g. housing, council). They may also not feel accepted by the wider community. Some people have had negative experiences with services. For example feeling their previous use of alcohol or drugs has been used against them or created stigma. People also spoke about their fear of relapse and of having access to money and needing help to manage this in practical terms.

In starting this development work, it is hugely helpful that there is already a lot of experience within the CAPS team working with those who use drugs or alcohol both from the individual team and the collective team. Also, I have experience facilitating Collective Advocacy groups in East Lothian already (for those who have experienced mental health issues). So I have some knowledge of local issues and concerns as well as East Lothian geography, organisations and services.

If you’d like to find out more about the service or get involved please contact me on or 07910 983 030.

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