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A second chance - community justice in action

Lucy spent ten years addicted to heroin. During this time she was also convicted of theft and lost her son to care. Her life had hit rock bottom.

“I was a heroin addict for about ten years and in and out of the criminal justice system. My son went to stay with my mum because I wasn’t looking after myself, and they thought I wasn’t looking after him.”

Today, speaking from the grounds of Perth College Lucy has been clean for over 2 years; at 37 she has returned to education for the first time since she left school at 15.

“I’ve got a portfolio of certificates and I am aiming for a degree with a dissertation in addiction and recovery,” Lucy says.

She has completed peer mentor training with Venture Trust and its partner Move On to help other women caught up in the criminal justice system.

One of Lucy’s proudest achievements was being recognised with the presentation of a local champion award through the criminal justice system.

The system that could have locked her away instead provided her with the opportunity to change her life.

“My life has totally changed. I’m in a brilliant place with my son. I’ve got a fighting chance to get him home. I have my grandchildren on weekends. These are things that would never have happened before,” she says.

“I get up every day and it’s not drugs I think about. I get up and I want to go to college, I want to take the dog for a walk, I want to eat well, sleep well and be healthy.”

Reflecting on her journey with Venture Trust’s Next Steps programme which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Lucy explains it was the three-phases of the programme all working together that allowed her to “get her life back”.

Like all of Venture Trust’s programmes, during phase 1 there is support in the participants’ communities which usually lasts for 3-6 months. An outreach worker, in partnership with other agencies, will help the participant to stabilise their lifestyle, so that they're able to embark on (and benefit from) the wilderness phase. The participant will be introduced to other local people in similar circumstances, helping them to build a positive network of peers and supporters. Finally, the participant will receive one-to-one support to identify the choices, actions or behaviours they need to change in order to develop a more sustainable lifestyle.

Phase 2, the wilderness journey or residential, is at the heart of Venture Trust’s programmes. This setting - far removed from a participant’s everyday environment, and often chaotic life - gives people the chance to tackle physical, emotional and social challenges. These challenges are carefully designed to encourage learning and development, to help participants to increase their aspirations, confidence and motivation, and to develop a range of skills for life, learning and work.

“We were not far from Pitlochry, but it could have been a million miles away,” Lucy says. “There were no phones and we took on challenges in the outdoors. But all of these challenges and activities were giving us tools for coping when we returned to our everyday life. Dealing with emotions and anxieties and putting into place an action plan for being back in the community.”

Back in their community during phase 3, each person has access to one-to-one support from a Venture Trust outreach worker. They are supported to achieve their aims, to utilise the skills they have acquired to work towards opportunities such as employment, education, training and voluntary work.

“Venture Trust believed in me. They gave me the support and the drive and it’s changed my life.”

Watch Lucy talk about her Next Steps journey.

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