Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, Ray Lock, joined a group of veterans on a Scottish wilderness retreat as part of the our Positive Futures programme.
The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), established to help ex-Service men and women make a successful transition back to civilian life, awarded us a grant, worth £689,453, for a three-year trial, to provide additional support to as many as 120 ex-Service men and women from across Scotland who are struggling with the transition to civilian life. The programme is available to those who are unemployed or in temporary accommodation, who struggle with low self-confidence or who have a history of drug and alcohol misuse.
Participants are supported through a three phase programme. The first phase – referral and engagement – consists of one-to-one sessions that provide participants with advice on employment, personal development and, where appropriate, referral to partners such as drug and alcohol treatment services.
The second phase is a specially designed ‘wilderness journey’ - a programme of personal development and learning in the outdoors with frequent one-to-one and group support sessions away from the challenges of everyday life. Over an intensive five day course, participants are given additional support to develop the transferable skills they need to rebuild their lives and move towards independence and employment. So far, 37 participants have taken part in the wilderness journeys, and anecdotal evidence has been that each group is very different from the next; the demographic is again very different from the other programmes, consisting of an older age group, and at present, very few females. These are capable people who have perhaps done demanding jobs. Their skills are already there; they just need help with redeploying them.
Participants in the third and final phase benefit from ongoing support focused on priorities for development including funded internships, employment support and volunteer peer mentoring, particularly to support others to move forward positively with their lives.
The impact of the project is being independently evaluated, with researchers assessing its impact on participants’ lives and whether its methodology can be extended.
Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said:
“It was fantastic to join eight service men [and women] under canvas at the end of their wilderness journey.
Learning about their personal circumstances and how the programme has supported them so far is truly inspiring. The ex-Service community has a diverse range of needs and it is vitally important they have access to the right kind of support which needs to be tailored to smooth what can sometimes be a challenging transition into civilian life.
The first year of the Positive Futures programme has just completed, and I look forward to the independent evaluation of the programme to better understand any men and women who have served in the Armed Forces, and struggle with the return to civilian life, can get the support they need.”
Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive of Venture Trust, said: “We were delighted that Ray joined the group on the latest Positive Futures journey. This really sent a positive message of support to our participants. For all of those leaving the military, it marks a complete change. Most of those thrive, going on to have successful careers and balanced lives. But for a small minority the transition to civilian life can be overwhelming and confusing which can lead to a multitude of negative circumstances. The Positive Futures programme offers veterans the support and space to begin to see themselves differently – that they can have a different life. Many will go on to further education, training, volunteering or employment, and this is a key catalyst for positive life changes. FiMT funding of the Positive Futures programme is pivotal to supporting veterans with a commitment to maximising the positive impact for individuals, their families and wider communities across Scotland.”
For more information about the Positive Futures programme, click here.
Keith Brown, Veterans Minister met with participants from our Positive Futures programme at our National Participant Centre in Stirling, to hear their stories, and talk about how the scheme has changed things for them.
The event provided a chance for the veterans to discuss their experiences on the programme, and the impact it has had on their lives. It was also an opportunity for them to speak to Mr Brown about what is being done to support the small but significant number of veterans struggling with the transition to civilian life.
Positive Futures, funded by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), does just that: supports veterans struggling with the transition to civilian life. The programme includes an intensive 5-day wilderness journey in the Highlands where outdoor activity and experiential learning techniques are used as a mechanism for unlocking and redeploying skills, building confidence and raising aspiration. Following this journey, the participants, of all ages and length of service, are given support to achieve their goals. For many this will result in utilising the skills learnt in service, and applying these skills to prepare them for employment, education, training or volunteering.
These veterans are on their way to reaching positive destinations, working towards managing what can be very challenging life circumstances as a result of leaving the military behind. Their struggle to adapt to civilian life can often lead to homelessness, isolation, addiction, abuse, breakdown of family relations, and long term unemployment.
Amelia commented: “We were delighted that Mr Brown visited us at our National Participant Centre, which sent a really positive message of support to our participants – for those past, and those about to head out on the next Positive Futures journey. For all of those leaving the military, it marks a complete change. Most of those thrive, going on to have successful careers and balanced lives. But for a small minority the transition to civilian life can be overwhelming and confusing which can lead to a multitude of negative circumstances. The Positive Futures programme offers veterans the support and space to begin to see themselves differently – that they can have a different life. Many will go on to further education, training, volunteering or employment, and this is a key catalyst for positive life changes.”
Mr Brown, Veterans Minister said: “I am delighted to see a truly innovative project like the Venture Trust Positive Futures Programme underway in Scotland, delivering valuable support for veterans.
Our veterans are an asset to Scotland and deserve the best possible support and care we can provide. The Positive Futures Programme is a great route for veterans who have struggled with transition, and it was a pleasure to meet some of the participants who have found it very beneficial.”
For further details of the Positive Futures programme, click here.
We are delighted that the Scottish Government CashBack for Communities programme has awarded Venture Trust funding to develop 'CashBack Change Cycle', a vocational training programme designed to create the building blocks for onward progression into volunteering, work experience, training and employment.
The programme will support over 200 16-24 year olds from areas of deprivation across Scotland over a three year period. These people are often facing multiple barriers, such as long term unemployment, potential risk of reoffending, anti-social behaviour, and little education or training, and are at high risk of life spiralling out of control. The CashBack Change Cycle aims at breaking the cycle of long term disadvantage, supporting participants to build aspiration, motivation, self-confidence, and to develop a range of vocational and employability skills.
The programme takes the form of an intensive three week course combining classroom based employability training, and workshop based vocational skills development focussed on bike building and maintenance. There will be a five day wilderness residential which includes a volunteering conservation project and mountain biking training. There will also be a period of community-based aftercare support in the form of one-to-one advice, support, and a range of opportunities.
The Bike Station will be providing the bike building and maintenance training, as well as teaching on and off-road cycle skills. All young people will build their own bike which will be a real tangible achievement. Venture Trust and partners will lead employability sessions, and there will also be health & safety, first aid, CV writing, and creating a career development plan. During the wilderness element, the young people will be encouraged to participate in an outdoor volunteering conservation project.
The young people will complete the course with their own bike, which they can then use as a means of transport for job interviews, and for getting outside. They will also receive ongoing one-to-one support from Venture Trust, in order to work towards achieving their goals from their personal and career development plans. There will be brokered access to a wide range of services, agencies and groups, and Venture Trust will also offer some participants the opportunity to take up voluntary work placements/tasters.
Commenting on the award, Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of Venture Trust, said: “We are thrilled to receive the support of CashBack for Communities to reach over 200 young people struggling with unemployment and complex life circumstances. This intensive employability programme, delivered in partnership with Bike Station, will offer personal development coupled with vocational qualifications on bike construction and maintenance. Our experienced staff will be there to encourage and support the young people in gaining the necessary life skills, confidence and a sense of purpose to overcome barriers to become more job ready and able to sustain employment, education or training.”
In July Venture Trust was delighted to be awarded £49,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) ‘Young Roots’ programme to work with young carers from Glasgow, in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland (HES). The first of two groups has just returned from a week in the Scottish Highlands, learning more about the history and heritage of Drovers’ routes whilst undertaking activities designed to develop their core life skills.
During the two months prior to the journey, the group took part in a series of evening workshops at Venture Trust’s Glasgow hub, which included heritage research sessions co-delivered by HES outreach staff, and activities about videography, photography and sound recording with Media Partner Sabine Hellman.
HES has helped Venture Trust to access unique learning opportunities at key points along the week-long wilderness journey. After departing from Venture Trust’s National Participant Centre in Stirling, the group spent nearly 24 hours immersed in the life of a rural township from the early 1800’s, including spending their first night in a roundhouse at Auchindrain Township near Inverary. Here they had dinner cooked over a fire, and listened to Drovers’ tales, poems and traditional songs.
During their week, the young carers went on to stay at a Long House, visit Rob Roy’s grave and Doune Castle. They walked on average 8 miles per day and took part in group activities throughout the week. On the last night the group finished their wilderness journey at Stirling Castle where they were given a tour of the building and an insight into its history.
Over the coming weeks, participants will use a range of different methods to record and interpret their findings, creating resources to encourage more young people to engage with heritage in the future.
As well as being educational, and a chance to experience new things, the young carers are also learning valuable life skills, problem solving, responsibility, teamwork, and setting and working towards achieving goals.
James Turner, project lead for Historic Environment Scotland said: ‘We are very proud to be involved in this initiative with the Venture Trust, and I would like to say a massive thanks to all those who helped deliver the heritage wilderness course, as well as a huge congratulations to those who took part in it.’
Hazel Johnson, project coordinator said ‘This kind of project is new territory for Historic Environment Scotland, it has been immensely rewarding to engage and connect with this key young audience, allowing us the opportunity to share and celebrate the historic environment with these inspirational young adults.’
As with all young people on our Inspiring Young Futures programme, participants will benefit from up to 12 months of one-to-one support from a Venture Trust outreach worker following their wilderness journey; this will enable them to draw on the skills learnt, and to begin making positive changes such as taking steps to volunteer, enter further education, training or employment.
An event will be held in Glasgow in December to present the group’s learning and to celebrate their achievements. Workshops will begin again in the New Year to prepare the second group for their Heritage Journey during the Easter break.
For further details of the Venture Trust’s Tracking the Highland Drovers programme, click here
Venture Trust has been awarded £1,000 from the Edinburgh Airport Community Board towards delivery of the SQA Personal Development Award on the Inspiring Young Futures programme.
The Edinburgh Airport Community Board makes awards for local community work in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife, with a focus on sport, health and wellbeing, environmental and educational initiatives. The Community Board's funding will support delivery of the Personal Development Award, through the Inspiring Young Futures programme, to young people aged 16-25 in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
The award is available to all young people taking part in the Inspiring Young Futures programme and fits well with the personal development and employability work undertaken on Inspiring Young Futures. The Personal Development Award consists of three modules: ‘Practical Abilities’, ‘Self in Community’ and ‘Self and Work’.
The award focusses on experiential learning, and with the first two modules undertaken on the wilderness journey (phase 2). It is a good option for the young people taking part in Inspiring Young Futures - many of whom have previously struggled in formal (classroom-based) learning, helping broaden their idea about what constitutes ‘learning’ and where it should take place.
The final module is completed in phase 3 of the programme and, after successful completion and assessment, participants are awarded their SQA certificates. Steph Nicolson, part of the Edinburgh Outreach Team at Venture Trust said,
“The young people are really proud and excited to receive their certificates, recognition of all the hard work on the wilderness journey and the personal development work they do throughout the programme to make ongoing changes in their lives.
The certificate looks good on their CVs and gives them extra credits – helping them get into college, employment, volunteering etc. Gaining this award gives young people the confidence to move on to other certificates and qualifications.”
To accommodate the additional field work required to complete the Award, the Inspiring Young Futures wilderness journey has been increased by an extra day to eight days duration. The final SQA module is completed in phase 3.
Many thanks to the Edinburgh Airport Communtiy Board for their support.