Janine Aitken: My first five months at Simon Community Scotland

Janine Aitken: My first five months at Simon Community Scotland

Janine Aitken

Janine Aitken, service lead for one of Simon Community Scotland’s Men’s Supported Accommodation Services in Glasgow, shares what she has learned in her first five months in the post.

I have recently (approximately 5 months ago) taken up the post of Service Lead at Simon Community Scotland’s Men’s Accommodation Service in Glasgow. The service has been running since 2017, providing support to up to 8 males (aged 18 – 65 years) within their own self contained flats. The aim of the service is to assist people in maintaining their own tenancies and enhance life opportunities. The service supports men who are committed to addressing a long-term alcohol or drug related issue, and/or who have social and/or emotional problems, who may be recovering from a mental illness, or who may have a mild learning disability.

Our support service operates from a separate flat that contains a small office, a kitchen and a room that we utilise for one to one support, relaxation and a quiet space for the team. We also have a lounge area which we use as communal space for residents and team members to share in activities (such as movies and quizzes) and meals (we make a shared meal on a Friday evening and brunch on a Sunday). We are currently putting together a structured program that will provide opportunities for the men to connect, to learn and to develop new life skills.

At the moment seven men are making their home here and we are currently awaiting the arrival of our newest resident. The move-on process is achieved over the long term, with a plan being put in place when someone new moves in, this is individualised and tailored to their own needs utilising an asset-based approach. This plan is reviewed and adapted across their stay, to ensure that we are providing the best possible support, to assist the men to live independently when they move on and we support each man as much as possible, to make their house a home, in terms of providing them with some household goods.

When a new man moves in, we utilise a whole team approach to ensure that we get their accommodation up to standard by carrying out a deep clean. We also provide new household goods, freshen up their accommodation with a coat of paint and provide a small welcome pack to ensure that they have the basics for moving in.

All of the men, more often than not, have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (including trauma), because of this and their subsequent poor mental health and/or substance use, they have often experienced years of stigma and discrimination. We are a trauma-informed service and when people move in we work hard to build up trust and positive relationships (showing warmth and regard), so that they feel valued and understood.

We work hard to ensure that the men feel included with opportunities to participate in the continuous improvement of the service. We gather feedback in a variety of ways including community meetings, where each man is provided with an opportunity to tell us what they want and need from the service and team.

Whilst here, we work with the men to meet any goals they have set for themselves. This has involved supporting people to take up volunteer roles, engage in specific activities (music, art) and as a pet friendly service, we also support the men to keep and care for their pets as part of their move on plan.

However, none of this could be achieved without collaboration and partnership work with our Commissioning Team at Glasgow HSCP, the Casework Teams, health, mental health services and other organisations involved in the care of each individual resident. These are just some of the examples of our values at work.

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