Living Experience

SDF ensures that people with living experience of substance use can influence local and national policy and services.

SDF supports people with current living experience of substance use to form local engagement groups which offer a safe space to discuss the issues that matter to them. The groups support members to identify their needs and express their opinions, enabling them to advocate for themselves and others to help improve services and inform local policy. 

Local groups collaborate on a national level to ensure that the voice of living experience is represented in the development of national policy and influences change.

Living Experience Engagement Groups

There are Living Experience Engagement Groups in locations across Scotland. Local groups meet regularly and provide a safe environment which encourages people to share their experiences, insights and opinions of the issues affecting them. SDF staff support the groups to collate and share their feedback to local commissioners, service managers and decision makers to ensure their voices are heard.   

Group members lead the agenda for meetings,and decide the issues they discuss and prioritise.  Groups are fully independent of existing structures but help inform local Lived Experience Panels or Alcohol and Drug Partnership subgroups through providing living experience representation.

Local groups are networked with each other and come together as a national group to discuss common themes. The national group is regularly involved in consultations with policy makers and academics to inform national policy, practice and research.  

Living experience engagement groups are facilitated by SDF staff with lived experience and local partner agencies. Group members are offered training and development to become peer facilitators with the aim of empowering people to lead the facilitation of the groups and where possible become independently constituted.


Over 100 people a week currently attend the Living experience engagement groups across Scotland.


Living experience engagement groups are currently taking place in 11 health board areas around Scotland. With more on the way


people have been supported to access drug checking


people have accessed training which has Increased knowledge of emerging drug trends and harm reduction and improved awareness of their rights within treatment and support

Joining a Living Experience Engagement Group

Anyone with their own current living experience of substance use is welcome to join their local group.

Currently there are engagement groups in: 

  • Borders
  • Fife
  • Perth
  • Glasgow
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • South Lanarkshire
  • North Lanarkshire
  • East Ayrshire
  • Edinburgh
  • Argyll & Bute
  • Highland

*SDF are in the process of setting up new groups in other parts of Scotland and can offer hybrid meetings to allow for online attendance for people in remote and rural areas who may wish to join their nearest group but are affected by travel barriers

our voices heard
Read More
It is important to have our voices heard for the people who have still to come through the door…We can help bring about change for them.
not be judged
Read More
[The group] has given us somewhere to be around your peers, get listened to and not be judged.. I feel like my voice has been heard
helped us get in touch
Read More
coming to the group helped us get in touch with services we didn’t know were there to help
gives me hope
Read More
It’s been a great opportunity... I have found it interesting and informative. It’s especially good to know that services can be held to account, something never done before and gives me hope for accessing support in the future
finally someone is listening
Read More’s good we have been invited to be part of this, finally someone is listening to our voices


For more information contact: 

Or contact the SDF Office on 0141 221 1175 or email–