Why it matters to you to participate in the public consultation on 'A draft outline Charter of Rights for People Affected by Substance Use'.

Putting a human rights-based approach into practical action is urgently required to tackle today’s emergency as well as to set Scotland on a progressive direction in improving and saving lives.

The step we need to take now is for us all to develop a Charter of Rights for People Affected by Substance Use.

However, the Charter will only help improve and save lives if people affected by substance use make it their own and use it to bring about the changes needed.

And it will only work best if all those people responsible for the delivery of a broad range of support services also make the Charter their own and use it to build human rights-based support services.


What is the draft outline Charter of Rights?

The draft outline Charter of Rights sets out in one place the most relevant human rights belonging to people affected by substance use and includes guidance and tools on how to make these rights real in everyday practice.

It has been commended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in his Report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on February 5th, 2024.

The most relevant of these human rights is the “right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” which will become part of our law when the Scottish Parliament passes the Human Rights Bill. Following a public consultation on the Bill last summer the Scottish Government is now preparing to introduce it to the Parliament within the next few months.

How is the Charter being developed?

Last summer the National Collaborative supported an evidence-gathering process where we heard from over 650 people in communities across Scotland. The findings from this engagement were published in the Analysis Report which was used to underpin the draft outline Charter of Rights.

It is now being further developed through listening to and acting upon what we hear during this public consultation as well as understanding what is needed by people responsible for delivering and monitoring services.

The Charter will be finalised and publicly launched at the end of 2024.

What can it do for people affected by substance use?

  • support the shifting of power to people affected by substance use through enabling their participation in decision-making on the kind of support they actually need – and which is their right,
  • support the change of culture from stigma – and self-stigma – of “deserving and undeserving” individuals towards one of “rights-holders” and “duty bearers”,
  • support increased access to the wider related support needed – such as housing, food, income – which can help prevent people turning to substance use in the first place, and
  • support increased accountability because the Charter rights can be backed up by law if need be.  

The Charter provides a Toolkit for the job…

  • including human rights-based checklists to support people affected by substance use to understand what they are entitled to when seeking support services, and
  • including guidance on how to transform engagement between ADPs and LLE groups through basing it on the human rights of people affected by substance use.

What can it do for people responsible for service delivery?

It enables them to know how to improve services and achieve better health outcomes.

  • through human rights-based checklists which support self-assessment and the development, implementation and monitoring of plans by public authorities, including ADPs, to put into practice the Charter rights and the forthcoming Human Rights Bill once it becomes law,  
  • through guidance on how to transform ADP/LLE engagement through basing it on the Charter rights which help to make services fit for the purpose of improving and saving lives.

What do you need to do to participate in this public consultation?

Many other public consultations have far too many questions for people to answer.

This public consultation has only five straightforward questions…

1. Does the content of the draft Charter apply to you and/or the communities you are involved in? If not, why not?

2. What could improve the content of this draft Charter? Is there anything you would like to add?

3. What would support you to use the Charter in practice (e.g. training, resources, guidance, different formats)?

4. Can you foresee any challenges or barriers to implementing the draft Charter? How might these be overcome?

5. Is there anything else you want to say?

Individual or group responses can be entered via the online survey.

We very much welcome anyone interested in holding a Community Conversation on the draft outline Charter to get in touch and we can provide support to help you do this, including small grants.

Let’s all work together to make the Charter of Rights work for us all.

Experience tells us that real change is brought about by those who need it most.

It also tells us that change is easier to bring about when those people in positions of power support the need for it and understand what they must do.

As Chair of the National Collaborative, I encourage everyone to grasp this opportunity to help make this happen through participating in this public consultation.

Thank you.


Alan Miller was invited by the then First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, to build and chair a National Collaborative as part of Scotland’s National Mission on Drugs Deaths. He is a Professor of Practice in Human Rights at the University of Strathclyde, a senior independent expert with the UNDP Crisis Bureau, lead adviser to the Scottish Government on the forthcoming Scottish Human Rights Bill and previously ran a legal aid practice in Castlemilk in Glasgow.  

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