In 2019, people in Scotland are seeking, and in some cases being advised, to commit crimes in order to get the support they need. Let that sink in for a minute.
Of all the findings of Hard Edges Scotland, most of which do not make easy reading, this tangible example of disconnect in the system of support for Scotland’s most disadvantaged people is a harrowing and stark reminder of the work we all still have to do in order to create a fairer and more compassionate Scotland. Quite simply, the current system is not working.
Hard Edges Scotland is the most comprehensive study ever carried out around severe and multiple disadvantage (SMD). It lays bare the scale and nature of the ways in which extreme disadvantages – homelessness, substance dependency, offending, mental health and domestic violence and abuse – overlap. It brings to life the unhealthy reliance on ‘single issue’ services within Scotland, in particular, the limiting effect this singular focus has on frontline services to respond effectively to those experiencing multiple disadvantages. It also highlights the role of poverty, violence and trauma as routes into SMD, and the missed opportunities for preventative interventions. The narrative is based on the experiences of service providers, national stakeholders and, most importantly, those with lived experience. None of this was a surprise to us; such learning emerged consistently throughout my team’s work in Criminal Justice, ultimately leading to an increased focus on preventative, early intervention approaches in recent years.
Our decision to partner with Lankelly Chase and Heriot-Watt University for Hard Edges Scotland came from a desire to identify opportunities for broader system and structural change in Scotland. While some have been shocked by the report’s findings, we believe raising the profile of SMD in Scotland has opened the door to real opportunity. Hard Edges Scotland does not provide answers; nor did it set out to. Instead, it challenges each and every one of us to consider what a comprehensive support system would look like and the role our own work has to play.
I have been so encouraged by the response to the report since its launch two weeks ago; from ‘trending’ on Twitter in Scotland, to significant media pick up and being shared independently by many of the key audiences and stakeholders we hoped it would reach. We know it’s got people talking – however, it simply cannot stop here.
Thanks to the work of the Christie Commission and its continuing relevance to public sector reform, the landscape in Scotland is ripe for preventative approaches. At The Robertson Trust, we are using the findings to inform our own strategic renewal, of which we will be sharing information about throughout the coming months.
I am in no doubt that there is a real opportunity to create lasting change, providing we keep these conversations going. Hard Edges has shone a light on what we needed to know – now it’s down to all of us to build on this momentum.
For the launch of Hard Edges Scotland small grants of between £1,500 and £3,000 are being offered to support people, organisations and communities to hold new conversations about severe and multiple disadvantage. For more information and to apply, click here.