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  • | News

    Falling through the cracks: The ‘hidden’ veterans


    Venture Trust’s programme for ex-service personnel featured in The Scotsman

    The article highlighted how Venture Trust is enabling 'hidden' veterans to access support services and is filling a gap for ex-servicemen and women with its unique three-phase programmes.

    With over 50 veterans’ organisations in Scotland alone, there is no shortage of services being offered to veterans after they leave the Armed Forces. These services typically support veterans who are older people, have been wounded or are suffering from recognised mental health issues along with those struggling with the transition to civilian life. However, research findings emerging from Scottish charity Venture Trust and insights from the organisation’s work with ex-servicemen and women has highlighted there is a small but significant group of struggling working-age veterans who are not accessing existing support services. These are the ‘hidden veterans’.

    An independent study of Venture Trust’s programme specifically for veterans struggling with civilian life – Positive Futures – highlighted that ex-servicemen and women who did not take part in a tour of duty, face active combat or were Early Service Leavers (ESLs) showed reservations about engaging with veterans support services.

    There are multiple reasons why some veterans end up ‘hidden’. However, it is vital that organisations collaborate to find and support those falling through the cracks. Reaching them, engaging them and helping them overcome their struggles is hugely important to the individuals, to their families and to society as whole.

    Read the article: ‘Hidden’ veterans must not be allowed to fall through the cracks

    The programme to date and the research - to be officially launched at an exclusive event on November 6th - has been funded for the past three years by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), a £35 million funding scheme run by FiMT using an endowment awarded by the Big Lottery Fund.

    With the FiMT grant coming to an end at the end of September 2018, Venture Trust secured a £699,384 LIBOR funding grant. The grant from the UK Government will enable Venture Trust to support even more former servicemen and women and extends the programme until 2021.

    Funding from the Armed Forces Covenant also supports our work with ex-service personnel caught up in the Scottish community justice system. The European Social Fund also provides funding for our core programmes.

    For more information about Venture Trust's programme for ex-service personnel visit: Positive Futures

  • | News | Participant stories

    Making the most of a second chance

    It’s a bit "surreal" for Lucy as she watches a ‘stranger’ staring at the giant photograph of her on the wall. The ‘stranger’ is wearing a set of headphones and is transfixed as they listen to her story.

    All around the room there are ‘strangers’ plugged in and looking at a series of powerful images while listening to the accompanying audio.

    It’s the launch of Community Justice Scotland’s first national campaign aimed at changing perceptions of what justice should look like in 21st century Scotland. Part of the launch is an audio exhibition featuring the powerful stories of those people who have grabbed their second chance.

    Second Chancers is centred around the voices of those whose lives have been touched by the justice system. Comprising of a series of short documentary films and a touring audio exhibition, the campaign tells authentic and raw stories of success and failure, change and transformation, obstacles and helping hands. It paints a warts-and-all picture of what works, what doesn’t and what we should be doing better.

    Lucy – a former Venture Trust participant – is one of those voices.

    “I wanted to be part of the campaign because I was given a second chance. Without that second chance and the support from Venture Trust and other organisations I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be working towards trying to help other people caught up in my situation.”

    “That second chance allowed me to become part of society and my community again. It allowed me to repair broken relationships, get healthy, get an education and have hope. We’ve all made mistakes and if more people are given the support and opportunity to change, Scotland will be a better and safer place.”

    Scotland has one of the highest incarceration rates in Europe. Scandinavia’s incarceration rate is almost half that of Scotland’s, whilst having a similar crime rate. Short sentences in prison are not only less effective at reducing reoffending than sentences in the community, but can have additional effects beyond the time spent inside, including homelessness, unemployment and family separation.

    Prison will always need to be an option for serious and violent crime but there is irrefutable evidence community justice is more effective than a short prison term.

    Venture Trust has two criminal justice programmes that are integral to the Scottish justice landscape, Living Wild and Next Steps. The focus is on supporting individuals in a community and wilderness setting to make positive changes through personal development, experiential learning and acquiring life skills. Participants are helped to raise their aspirations, confidence, understand cause and effect and responsibility, and give them space for change. In a recent study, evidence suggests that 75 per cent of women who have completed the Next Steps programme are less likely to reoffend, and 83 per cent are employable, with a significant number already in work.

    Venture Trust CEO Amelia Morgan said: “Many of those facing short term sentences are typically struggling with issues such as addiction, homelessness, isolation, and long term unemployment, as well as mental health problems. Often, it is these issues that have led to criminal activity, causing chaos and disruption amongst family and friends. A prison sentence, no matter how short, often heavily affects the individual and their family members.

    “People do deserve a second chance. Someone’s past – where they grew up, their family background or previous negative and damaging experiences – does not have to define them.”

    Community Justice Scotland chief executive Karyn McCluskey said: “Scotland has always been a country of inventors, explorers and innovators. In the fields of science, engineering and technology, we strive for what works rather than what has always been done. Why would we approach justice any differently?

    “We deserve a smart justice system driven by the best evidence of what reduces and prevents offending, repairs harm and improves the lives of everyone. Isn’t that what justice is for?”

    Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government was commitment to supporting those who have offended to address the reasons for their behaviour so they can contribute positively to their communities.

    “Short custodial sentences often serve little purpose and this campaign supports our progressive, evidence-led approach to preventing and reducing offending and making communities safer.”

    For more information about Venture Trust visit our website: www.venturetrust.org.uk

  • | News | Participant stories

    Venture Trust nominated for Herald Society Awards

    Venture Trust has been shortlisted for the 2018 Herald Society Awards.

    CashBack Change Cycle – the organisation’s employability programme targeting disadvantaged young people – has been selected as a finalist in the Young People’s Project of the Year Award.

    Judges were on the lookout for a team or initiative working with young people, which has achieved results that others haven’t managed, perhaps through creative or imaginative approaches.

    The CashBack Change Cycle programme – funded by a grant from CashBack for Communities – is breaking the cycle of long-term unemployment associated with some of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people. By providing an opportunity that relates to young people and keeps them engaged while they gain important life and employability skills, Venture Trust is helping those young people to improve their quality of life.

    The programme includes employability sessions, bike construction and maintenance with workshop experience, and a short wilderness residential that has work-related tasks, and mountain biking. Participants learn about responsibility and getting up to be at a job Monday to Friday. They get to keep the bike they have built and use it for job hunting, accessing services, training, getting to work, and leisure. The programme aims to work with 250 young people over three years, supporting their progression onto education, training, volunteering, or employment.

    “I have to admit that was the best course I have done. It was comfortable and safe including the going on the residential. I didn't always enjoy the CV work but I'm glad I got the help to sort it and get it done. I feel a lot better about myself and feel ready to take anything on now because of the course.” – Cashback Change Cycle participant

    Many of the participants on Cashback Change Cycle have first taken part in Venture Trust’s Inspiring Young Futures programme. This involves intensive needs-led personal development in communities and the Scottish wilderness, where participants are supported to gain the life skills, stability and confidence to then progress onto the employability programme.

    There are agencies getting young people ready for work but most of those young adults already have the soft skills to engage in training or to start working. The people Venture Trust helps first require significant investment to achieve greater stability – addressing chaotic or destructive behaviours to become ready for training and employment so that they can sustain a job.

    Many have experienced family life where unemployment, drug and alcohol misuse or violence are a part of their everyday experience- making it hard to get into mainstream education or work. Through its programmes for young people, Venture Trust provides opportunities for developing the skills needed to become more employable or more stable, raises aspirations, and changes behaviours so that young people can build and maintain positive, quality relationships with those around them.

    “Talking to people face to face every day…has helped me to become more confident…I had quite a bit of anxiety, but now I feel…. well different. I just do things now.” – Cashback Change Cycle participant

    Venture Trust is proud to be delivering the CashBack Change Cycle programme with Bike for Good Glasgow and The Bike Station Edinburgh with additional support from Yorkshire & Clydesdale Bank Foundation’s Spirit of the Community Awards 2018, The Percy Bilton Charity, The Hugh Stenhouse Foundation and The Cotton Trust.

    The Herald Society Awards winners will be announced at a gala event on Thursday November 1st.

    For more information about Venture Trust visit: www.venturetrust.org.uk

  • | News

    Venture Trust: A partner in progressive justice in Scotland

    Venture Trust is taking part in an innovative new approach to justice.

    The Aberdeen Problem-Solving Approach (PSA) is looking to reduce re-offending by focussing on underlying problems linked with persistent, low-level offending. Under the PSA, offenders who would otherwise get a prison sentence are offered a chance to work with social workers and other support networks to help them deal with underlying factors such as debt, addiction, homelessness or past trauma.

    Venture Trust has been one of the support services working with Aberdeen community justice partners including the Sheriff Court, criminal justice social workers (CJSW), police and women’s centre.

    The project, the first of its kind in Scotland, works closely with women and young men who have multiple complex needs. Rather than being imprisoned, they receive a deferred sentence and talk to social workers and support workers about the underlying problems linked to their offending. A sheriff reviews their progress periodically, praising, warning or encouraging as he or she sees fit.

    Referring a PSA participant to Venture Trust is one of the options available to CJSW to help address the issues associated with re-offending. The organisation’s programmes help people involved in the criminal justice system who recognise that they need to address their behaviours and attitudes. They are offered support to develop the skills and motivation to work towards a life free from crime, to become more employable, see more possibilities and build positive relationships with others.

    A review of the Aberdeen PSA by Ipsos MORI Scotland and the University of Stirling concluded the approach “shows promise”. It also recommends that community justice partners in other parts of Scotland give consideration to the benefits of a problem-solving approach.

    Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive Officer at Venture Trust says: “Often it is poverty, inequality and adverse childhood experiences, and the trauma resulting from domestic abuse and addiction that underpins offending behaviour. These issues need to be addressed and can be best addressed outside of prison for many people.”

    “Collaborative and sustained support does break the cycle of offending and reduces the social harm and financial costs for individuals, families and communities. Scotland can create safer communities by being bold. Investing for the long term - in services which work - is fundamental in building confidence for victims of crime, those passing sentences and the public, and will result in making communities safer.”

    Ash Denham, Minister for Community Safety, told The Herald: “The numbers involved were small, but the evidence suggested other areas should consider adopting the approach. Initiatives such as the Aberdeen Problem Solving Approach are a great example of the work being done across the country to help individuals caught in the cycle of reoffending to turn their lives around.”

    Dr Hannah Graham, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Stirling, was quoted as saying: “Prison has been tried with this group and doesn’t seem to be making a difference. Meanwhile a prison sentence can result in the loss of tenancy, loss of children and a lack of hope - which can increase the risk of further offending.”

    “These people are in and out of court, often being given short prison sentences, without the underlying issues being addressed. This approach seeks to do that to address the issues contributing to repetitive cycles of crime and punishment, so they can move on with their lives.”

    Note: If any other Sheriffdoms take up the PSA approach and wish to add Venture Trust to their portfolio of supportive services then please contact Gordon Thomson to discuss possibilities.

    Gordon can be reached at the following: Phone: 07772484039 Email: gordon@venturetrust.org.uk

  • | Films | News | Participant stories

    Breaking Free with Venture Trust

    The sun is shining in Portobello.

    Stephen is smiling and excited as he talks about supporting and mentoring people fighting to break free from the “grip” and “madness” of addiction and the pain and suffering addiction brings.

    He has just finished a peer mentor training programme and is now qualified to help those facing the same struggles he has.

    “My life is brilliant right now,” he says.

    However, life was not always sunny for Stephen.

    As a teen he turned to drugs as an escape from the trauma and turmoil in his life.

    His addiction caused his life to spiral out of control. He lost everything that was once important to him - family, friends, his home and eventually his freedom.

    After a chaotic childhood, Stephen joined the army as a 16-year-old as a way to set his life on a steady path. However, after issues with alcohol his military career did not last and shortly after he left the service his girlfriend was tragically killed in an accident.

    “This was me. I had lost my chance at a career I wanted, I had lost my girlfriend, and I had lost the house. I had lost everything,” Stephen recalls.

    At times he felt so lost and alone he believed life was hardly worth living.

    His drug use increased and so did his criminal activities to feed his habit. After several appearances in front of the court, Stephen was eventually locked away in Polmont Young Offenders' Institution.

    Prison didn’t end up being a place of rehabilitation for Stephen. He was able to get access to drugs from while he was behind bars. “It wasn’t a very nice place as you can imagine and I soon got into heroin,” he says.

    For the next decade, life for Stephen was filled with “a misery inside”. Drugs, crime and homelessness were all part of his existence. He even robbed his family. For a moment a relationship with a woman appeared to give Stephen a reason to change his life. But the relationship ended and he once more turned to the only source of relief he knew – drugs.

    “I started using legal highs. That’s when I really hit rock bottom. I had drug psychosis, I was running about with knives. It was absolute madness. I lost 25 kilogrammes in two months. I had to be carried out of my house and into hospital,” Stephen remembers.

    “I had no will to live.”

    On his release from hospital Stephen was accommodated in housing for individuals struggling with substance abuse. He was also placed on a Drug Treatment and Testing Order (DTTO). He had to undergo regular drug testing and he also began to engage with professional support services. He took inspiration from a support worker who had turned his own life around.

    “I was drug tested, I cut off a lot of people who I had been associating with and with the help of medication I began to see this wee bit of light at the end of a dark tunnel.”

    The same worker that had inspired him to make changes in his life referred him to Venture Trust.

    Venture Trust’s programmes of personal development help people involved in the criminal justice system who recognise that they need to address their behaviours and attitudes. There is support for individuals to develop the skills and motivation to work towards a life free from crime, to become more employable, see more possibilities and build positive relationships with others. Staff work with participants in their community and also in the Scottish wilderness.

    A unique phase of the programmes is a wilderness journey in the wilds of Scotland. Outdoor activity and experiential learning techniques allow participants to make positive changes in negotiating barriers, gaining control of their life circumstances, and working towards achieving personal goals. These could be re-deploying skills learnt within the military; living independently; rebuilding broken relationships; moving towards jobs, training or volunteering; and generally working towards living a healthy, safe and stable life.

    Stephen had always loved the outdoors and adventure. It was what drew him to the Army all those years ago. “It sounded like my kind of thing.”

    He met with an Outreach Worker and they began working towards getting Stephen physically and mentally prepared for the three phase Living Wild programme - funded by The Scottish Government and also by the Armed Forces Covenant for ex-service personnel in the Scottish community justice system. This meant cutting back on medication and making the commitment to change.

    It hasn’t easy for Stephen. He has had his setbacks and a short relapse but with his determination and desire to escape “the wreckage” that had been his life for 20 years he has broken free from the grip of addiction. He is experiencing life through clear eyes and mind. With his confidence up and a desire to help others access the service Venture Trust provides, Stephen also threw himself off a bridge - with an elastic chord tied around his ankles - to raise funds for the organisation.

    “It’s great to have a life back. To not feel hopeless or like you are nothing or useless. Venture Trust has helped me to become somebody again. It’s still a daily struggle at time but I now have the skills to deal with life,” Stephen says.

    “My family all want something to do with me. I’m re-building relationships that were broken.

    “The life that I have now is brilliant compared to what it was like. I thought I was a failure and that I was going to die in that horrible existence of addiction, prison, violence and fear.”

    Watch Stephen's story below:

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