Circle’s Young Persons’ Service supports young people from the North West of Edinburgh who are worried about their drug and/or alcohol use. Since January 2017, we have delivered approximately 800 hours of individual support to a total of 20 young people. My name is Seamus Kealey and I have been in post for a year now. I share the role with my colleague Fiona Burness and between us we make up one full time post. Referrals come from a range of sources internally and externally to Circle, including schools, foster carers, family members, social work and from some young people themselves.

We feel it is important for young people to consent to and take ownership of their support. We encourage them to give it a chance if they’re not sure it’s for them, but equally respect their choice not to engage if they don’t want to. The service gives young people a safe space to tell their story without judgement. If a young person’s substance use is problematic, we encourage them to make changes. Together we explore strategies to help them feel empowered and make better decisions. Just like Circle’s other services, we focus on solutions and client strengths. No two stories are the same, and each young person will have their individual support plan developed around their needs.

It has been extremely rewarding supporting a young man who has taken huge risks, sometimes life threatening ones, and being part of his journey to being drug-free, safer and achieving well in school. More often though, change being made by the young people might not be as noticeable as the shift this young man has made, but it is no less important to them. Some young people are motivated to stop their drug and/or alcohol use, and others just want help to cut down. Some are not ready to make changes, but by sharing their story and building trust they’re not having to manage on their own. Others might want to know about the effects of a certain drug or tips on how to stay safer.

One young person told me that the support he received from Circle has helped him to manage his feelings much better. As a result he hasn’t ‘kicked off’ at home or school when feeling angry. He went from having numerous school exclusions in one term to none the following term, therefore feeling a lot better about himself. Another young person has stopped mixing their alcohol with Benzodiazepines. Although still using alcohol and drugs, they are doing so in a much safer way and avoiding vulnerable blackouts which were once a regular occurrence.

Other times alcohol and drugs are not the key area of conversation because the focus might be on the things that have happened to them, but that are still linked to substance use. One young person wanted to talk about her friends and the influence they have on the choices she makes, another the relationship with his dad and another the loss of a parent. So whether it’s the impact of trauma, bereavement, relationships, peer-influenced choices or just wanting to know the risks associated with mixing drugs, Circle’s Young Persons’ Service can help.

We are one of several agencies in Edinburgh that provide information and support to young people around substance use. We are linked together by the city-wide forum known as YPSUS – Young People’s Substance Use Services. This includes partners like CREW, Health Opportunities Team (HOT), the Junction and the NHS. Circle is the city’s North West partner. We meet regularly to share trends, discuss practice and network. We are also a member of the Edinburgh North West Community Alcohol Partnership which includes agencies such as the City of Edinburgh Council, Police Scotland, Trading Standards and a range of other third sector agencies.

We continue to build rapport with the local high schools and have supported young people in all of the non-independent schools in the North West of Edinburgh. We have been invited to deliver group work in Forrester and Gorgie Mills High Schools. We have also been linking in with local youth projects and have delivered awareness workshops in Fetlor Youth Club. One year on from starting my post in Circle I’m really looking forward to the upcoming months and continuing to raise awareness, provide information and support young people from across the North West of the city.

If you are interested to find out more, go to or contact Julie King, Project Manager, on 0131 551 0220.