Simon Community Scotland launches ‘harm reduction’ app for women

Simon Community Scotland has launched a 'harm reduction' app for women

SIMON Community Scotland (SCS) has teamed up with tech consultancy AND Digital to provide easy-to-access evidence-based harm reduction support, advice and resources to people using the charity’s services, through their first ever digital app called ‘By My Side.’  

Angela Constance, the Scottish Government Minister for Drugs Policy, today (Thursday 26 May) visited the SCS Access Hub in Glasgow to meet women who use the charity’s services and find out how the By My Side app is helping them.

The app came as a result of AND Digital’s Glasgow office, known as the Almeida Club, partnering with Simon Community Scotland. Staff, known as “ANDi’s” volunteer for the charity, offering their digital skills and expertise to create this first of its kind digital resource for people supported by SCS. 

Designed ‘for women, by women’, the By My Side app has been co-developed with women supported by SCS, directly addressing the challenges they face in gaining access to the right information. 

Initially focused on advice to prevent drug-related harm, the app is now home to wider resources such as mental health guidance, support for those affected by domestic or sexual violence, and information for managing sexual health. 

By making relevant advice and resources readily available and accessible, the app will support women to make more informed decisions about their health, wellbeing, and safety. 

Development of the By My Side app has led to SCS becoming the official charity partner of AND Digital’s Glasgow office, Club Almeida. AND Digital will continue to provide its expertise across future digital projects and support ongoing work with the organisation. 

The app will launch initially within SCS’s residential women’s services, before being rolled out across the wider organisation and to external partners – many of whom have already contributed material and resources. SCS’s ambition is for the platform to become a digital resource that supports key workers and the people they support across the entire Alcohol and Other Drugs field. 

Angela Constance, Scottish Government Minister for Drugs Policy, said: “We need to pull together all resources to help reduce drugs deaths and harm in Scotland and this easy to access digital app helping women make informed choices about their drug use aligns perfectly with our national mission.”

“This work between Simon Community Scotland and ‘AND Digital’ shows how businesses can use their own services and skills to support the third sector and have a positive impact on communities.”

Claire Longmuir, Head of Harm Reduction at Simon Community Scotland, said: 

“In Scotland, there has been a disproportionate increase in drug related deaths amongst women, especially those aged over 35 years old.  In 2009, women accounted for around a quarter of drug related deaths, they now account for 31%. This is an increase of 293%, from 132 women to 387 women (DTTF, 2021). The reasons for this involve many interconnected factors, but we know for many women it is rooted in experiences of trauma, adversity and loss.”

“By opening up a conversation with the women we support, it became clear that there was a real gap in harm reduction knowledge, especially around topics such as safer injecting, overdose and managing wounds. While there is a lot of useful information out there, much of it is aimed at professionals and may not always meet the needs of people who really seek to benefit from it.” 

“Stigma was also raised as a concern – specifically that associated with being a woman who uses drugs. Importantly, this app will give women access to high quality information to guide their health decisions, without ever having to go near a service if they don’t want to. It’s about choice. Digital offers people choice and flexibility around how they can access the information, advice and support that feels right for them.” 

Kelly Innes, People Lead at AND Digital’s Glasgow club, said: “Developing this app alongside Simon Community Scotland has been an incredibly rewarding experience. By working closely with the women who will really benefit from access to these resources, we’ve been able to offer a platform which is reflective of real life experiences, while rooted in evidence-based best practice.” 

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