Increasing access to life-changing opportunities with SDF’s Colin Pomeroy

Scottish Drugs Forum’s award-winning Addiction Worker Training Project (AWTP) has been running since 2004.

In that time, the unique initiative – which supports, trains and prepares individuals with a history of drug and/or alcohol use towards a career in Social Care – has trained over 230 people, with over 85% securing further employment, the majority to full time jobs in the health and social care field.

Recently, the AWTP welcomed a new Senior Development Officer to steer the project through the next stage of its development.

Colin Pomeroy, who joined SDF in November, is now responsible for managing the programme and so SDF media volunteer, John Thomson, sat down with him to find out a bit more about him, and what his hopes and aspirations for the AWTP’s future.

Coming from a local authority background, Colin is well used to looking for funding for projects and then supporting that project once funding is obtained.

When previously based in East Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, Colin was involved in the budgetary aspects of projects but the real challenge was to make sure that local people were involved in running them and taking advantage of the employment opportunities.

One such project was an eco-lodge in Langbank. For Colin, amongst the most satisfying aspects of the project was building up relationships with people and seeing these ‘social capital human projects’ (to use the jargon!) through to completion.

This is in keeping with much of Colin’s background;

“Throughout my career I’ve always been somewhat altruistic and even though I’ve had a business mind, I’ve always been wanting to work with people, to be engaged more directly with individuals and to have a more personal social impact.”

This is an aim backed up by Colin’s academic experience as well. In 2014, Colin did a Post Graduate course in Community Education which involved a placement at Venture Scotland – an outdoor-based personal development programme organisation designed to help young people struggling with aspects of their life.

“I think Venture Scotland gave me an opportunity to work with individuals from a range of challenging backgrounds and made me want to help them to pursue the more positive aspects of their lives.”

Working with people who have a history of drug and/ or alcohol use and seeking funding are two main strands of Colin’s new role with SDF, and I (because of my own personal experience) was keen to ask him about how much the trainees’ lived experiences played a part in the challenges ahead for both him and them. This was something he had already considered and had, in fact, discussed with the trainees.

“I think more and more sectors are looking for people with lived experience because they understand the experiences, skills and attributes that it brings.”

This is something that Colin wants to look at when considering the way ahead for training and qualification. The SVQ II in Social Care the trainees achieve at the end of the programme is a fantastic step towards a career in the substance use treatment field, but Colin is keen that trainees develop more specialist skills. As a result, trainees are able to take full advantage of the expertise at SDF, and have a programme of specialist substance use-related training provided by our in-house trainers.

Colin is also keen to build on the recent work to expand the programme on a geographical basis across Scotland. Currently the programme is offered in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife, Ayrshire and surrounding areas, with a new cohort of trainees recently starting in Dumfries and Galloway. Although the current catchment is considerable, Colin wants to increase opportunities further with a variety of models, including greater access for rural communities.

“We’ve just had the bid accepted to extend the programme to the Highlands and we’re going through the process of getting that done. It’s a new kind of model that we’re piloting which is a remote model with four funded places.”

“This will be a new model of delivery so it’s important we work closely with the Alcohol and Drug Partnership, local partners and providers, and of course, the trainees to ensure its success. Digital access and online support is going to be crucial for providing support, training and ongoing communication – and that could also present its own challenges because of suitable internet access and things like that, but overcoming those challenges will be worth it to provide a potentially life-changing opportunity to people across the Highlands.”

“We’ll utilise technology as much as possible so we can still have clear communication with the trainees up there, but we’ll still have our co-ordinators going up at least weekly.”

This is an important issue because some of the trainees may have not been in education for a number of years or, possibly, have never been in employment and may not have the IT skills that can be taken for granted. For many, it can be challenging to work with computers and IT. Colin has thought of this.

“We’re establishing a partnership where we get as much IT support as possible. It’s about making sure that everyone has basic skill levels of IT and if they do need any more support or if they have challenges, then there’s open access communications so that they can get that.”

All of which brings us back to the trainees and those who work with them. The course offers an industry standard qualification and first-hand experience of working in a service, all whilst being paid. Yet Colin believes one of the strongest elements of the programme are the staff who facilitate it.

“I think what’s key, as an organisation and definitely with our programme co-ordinators, is that there is genuine care and as much support is given as possible; be it face-to-face, the phone, a text message or whatever it is. There are always lines of communication and there’s no divide and trainees are able to get as much support as possible and I want to reaffirm that, the team do a fantastic job.”

Applications are currently open for the AWTP acros Scotland (pending funding) – find out more and how to apply here.

SDF are currently looking for service providers who may be interested in providing a placement opportunity to trainees within the Highland ADP area. Please get in touch with Colin if you would be interested in finding out more at

Click here to find out more about the AWTP.

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