Words by Abi Scaife
Life can be hard when you’re a single mother - but it only gets harder when you’re battling a substance issue.
But for single mums battling addiction in Dundee, there's now somewhere they can go to help them end substance misuse, without having their children taken away from them.
Angela Constance, the Scottish Drugs Policy Minister, opened the Aberlour National Recovery House in January 2023, to prevent further deaths from substance misuse. In 2021, 397 women died from drug-related deaths in Scotland - a record high for the country, and something Angela isn’t taking lightly.
Ordinarily, when a mother has substance misuse issues, she might have her children taken away from her. While this is done with all of the best intentions - namely keeping children safe and making sure they have someone present to look after them at all times - some believe it isn’t the motivation to get clean that it was previously thought to be.
The Scottish Government has invested £5.5m in the facility based in Dundee, as well as another in central Scotland with a later opening date.
“We know there is a strong link between women having children removed from their care and risk of drug-related death,” said Angela. “Keeping mothers and their children together can enhance the effectiveness of treatment and lessen any harmful impact on children.
“Supporting people into recovery is a key part of our national mission and our commitment to Keep the Promise, which aims to give families the support they need to stay together.”
These National Recovery Houses provide accommodation for mothers and their children, as well as round-the-clock support and care - so that parents can focus on their recovery as well as their children. This way, mothers don’t have to fear having their children taken away from them because of their addiction, and can get the support that they need to get clean.
According to Aberlour Chief Executive SallyAnn Kelly OBE, too many single mothers with substance misuse problems don’t reach out for the help they need because they're afraid of having their children taken away. This is a fear that nobody should have - and organisations and facilities like these National Recovery Houses are the way forward.
“The house will help to improve outcomes for these women and children, reduce deaths of mothers with problem drug use, avoid family breakdown and increase the likelihood of children being cared for by their parents,” explained SallyAnn.
The whole premise of these facilities is to make sure everybody gets the care they need - the mums get constant support from professionals, while her children get to stay with their parent. This means that neither has to go through the stressful, and oftentimes traumatising, event of being separated from the other, and having to navigate the care system to eventually reunite.
It's incredibly difficult to end a substance addiction, particularly when it's being used to distract from a difficult situation such as poverty or grief. While people who struggle with addiction have been villainised and penalised in the past, what we now know today is that there are huge biological and psychological components to addiction - and that it’s not as easy to kick the habit as once thought.
Ultimately, National Recovery Houses give these women the space they need to confront their addictions and get to the route of the issue, without having to worry about losing their family in the process - leaving mother and baby so much happier, and healthier too.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance misuse problem, you can contact charities like Turning Point for help and advice.