David* was 15 when he found himself on the street.
He left home and moved to Oban to escape the emotional and physical abuse he had suffered at the hands of his family since childhood. He soon became homeless and was unable to complete his school exams.
In 2016, David moved to Glasgow. Still homeless and facing a high risk of social isolation, the teenager was referred to Venture Trust by Phoenix Peer Mentor Service.
Working with a Venture Trust outreach worker David opened up about his past experiences that led him to the harsh Glasgow streets without family or friends to support him. He explained he found it difficult to build relationships and trust people, but that he had an interest in the outdoors. The physical activity helped with his depression. He was told about the Inspiring Young Futures (IYF) programme which included an eight day wilderness journey. The programme is funded by The Big Lottery Fund, Inspiring Scotland, Scottish Children's Lottery, and several other organisations.
Ahead of the wilderness journey, David met weekly with his outreach worker to discuss his short and long-term goals. These included securing his own accommodation, to be more confident, to act quickly on problems instead of letting them build up and to increase his fitness levels.
Two weeks before leaving for the wilderness journey, David secured his own tenancy through Glasgow Housing Association. He planned to move into the property when he returned from the journey. It was hard for him to believe things were finally beginning to look up. “Things are going good but I’m waiting on something bad happening as nothing has ever been this good and I haven’t experienced people supporting me.”
David rose to the challenges on the wilderness phase of the IYF programme. His development trainer was extremely positive describing the progress David made. “As the course went on he seemed to come out of his shell and open up in what was a safe space for him where peers and friends were encouraging and supporting him. He built some good friendships and will hopefully continue to talk with these people about the positive experience shared.”
David excelled during the tasks and demonstrated his ability to learn new skills quickly, and showed his willingness to support others in the group who were struggling. He challenged and broke one of his own rules that he had previously set for himself - ‘not to trust anyone’.
On the journey David began placing faith in his peers and his confidence grew. He also worked with his development trainer to accept praise and positive feedback. These were things he’d previously struggled to do.
After returning from his journey David was looking ahead. “I feel highly motivated and in good spirts - I feel the wilderness gave me time away to think about my future”.
The main focus was to move into his own accommodation. However, with very few belongings - an inflatable mattress (without a pump), a pillow and a single quilt it was not straight forward. Continued support from Venture Trust and the housing association led to an offer of a home starter pack, which included bedding, pots, pans and cutlery. Following a meeting with Job Centre Plus, David was also supported to apply for a community care grant for white goods and carpets.
To avoid slipping back into a life of isolation after the wilderness journey David and his outreach worker considered his options. Focusing on his love of the outdoors, David was offered a one day per week placement for one year with Venture Scotland.
This was the stepping stone to take on the challenge of employability courses to help David progress into employment in the future. He gained a place on the Venture Together four week employability course which covered IT sessions, CV writing, budgeting skills, interview skills, self-presentation skill and mock interviews. He was also introduced to our CashBack Change Cycle programme.
The hard work has paid off. Venture Scotland have offered to train David to become a volunteer on their courses.
David said he could see the difference in his confidence now.
“I speak more openly about problems and don’t let them build up anymore. I can’t believe how much my life has change since the beginning of the year. I can’t thank Venture Trust enough for the support they have given me. I now find it easier to trust people and build positive relationships.”
* Name changed
More information about the programme can be found here: Inspiring Young Futures.
Positive Futures is Venture Trust's three phase programme for ex-service men and women struggling with the transition to civilian life.
The programme’s effectiveness for veterans who are struggling is being independently evaluated over three years.
A strategic survey has been launched to obtain the wider views of those who are driving support for veterans at a strategic level. People like heads of social work and employability; Scottish Government; senior armed forces personnel; people with special responsibility for veterans in Scotland and the UK, charities in the wider Veterans’ Scotland Network including armed forces charities; funders and the NHS.
Amelia Morgan, CEO of Venture Trust said, “The Interim Report showed that Positive Futures was making a difference in the wider landscape of support. It gives referral agencies an option for veterans who might not normally engage in a personal development programme. It gives veterans a chance for change and an opportunity to re-connect through time spent in the wilderness.”
“Now the research team are moving to study the strategic level impacts and this is where this survey comes in. Information from strategic level colleagues, partners and supporters will help present a rounded picture of the impacts of Positive Futures on the wider veterans support landscape.”
Jo Lloyd, who is the Lead Researcher, said, “If you work, at a senior or strategic level, for an organisation that has the welfare of veterans at its heart or comes across veterans in need in its daily work, then we would like to hear your views on Positive Futures and its place in veterans' support.”
Amelia added, “The more people we reach, the better the research outcomes for veterans so, if you have colleagues who might like to give their views, or who might be interested in the Positive Futures programme, please feel free to copy the survey link and viral it on.”
Have your say to help achieve better outcomes for UK veterans
If you are a senior or strategic stakeholder in an organisation which supports or has an interest in the welfare of veterans in the transition to civilian life, please take part in the survey below and forward to all other relevant stakeholders.
Positive Futures is Venture Trust's three phase programme for ex-service men and women struggling with the transition to civilian life. Working in partnership with other agencies and services, it aims to help participants make positive changes to their life through negotiating barriers, gaining control of their life situation, 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.
The programme’s effectiveness for veterans is being independently evaluated over 3 years, and the research is also intended to identify and share insights into the veterans’ community and approaches to supporting veterans effectively. When the evaluation is complete, we will be sharing the outcomes widely.
As part of this evaluation work, the research team are seeking the views of senior and strategic stakeholders with an interest in the support available to veterans. The researchers are already engaging with veterans themselves, their families/households and direct service delivery staff referring or supporting veterans on the ground, but we would like the views of managers, senior staff, Directors and CEOs to gain yours strategic insights.
You are part of an organisation that has the welfare of veterans at its heart or comes across veterans in need in its daily work. That means the research team would like to hear your views on Positive Futures and its place in veterans' support.
To that end, would you complete a short survey? It’s been tested, depending on your answers, it takes about 7-10 minutes to complete. The survey link is:
If you have colleagues who might like to give their views, or who might be interested in the Positive Futures programme and its outcomes, we would be extremely grateful if you could send the survey link on to them and encourage relevant staff to take part.
Annabelle McPherson struggled with alcohol addiction.
Her dependence on alcohol was like a weight dragging her down beneath the water and had significantly impacted her and her family.
However, with support from Venture Trust and partner organisations, Annabelle has turned her life around and is repaying those who helped her when she was sinking. She has “swum” the Tweed River raising funds so others facing the same struggles she once did can get support.
“I wanted to help, in a small way, other people in similar situations to myself and give them hope,” Annabelle said.
“Venture Trust helped me to learn that although alcohol took a lot from me it didn't mean my life was over and that I could recover and be a responsible and worthwhile person in society and for this I cannot thank them enough.”
In June 2015 Annabelle enrolled on Venture Trust’s Next Steps course, a programme specifically designed for women in the criminal justice system, funded by The Big Lottery and a number of other trusts and foundations.
Two years later, the mother of two is giving hope and inspiration to other people.
In the early hours of August 18, when most people were waking up for breakfast, Annabelle set off on the final two lengths of her epic swim at her local swimming pool in Duns. When she touched the wall after length 6144 – or 96 miles – it signalled the end of an incredible two-and-a-half months of dedication, grit and endurance.
Almost 30 people, including her two daughters, joined Annabelle for her final lengths in the water and cheered as she “swam out past the lighthouse at Berwick-upon-Tweed”.
“That was great, really really good. When I got in the pool I was quite emotional but when I started to swim I just got on with it,” Annabelle said as she dried off.
“It hasn’t really sunk in. Some people might think it is utter madness but it has been good for me.”
To complete her marathon fund-raising effort, Annabelle powered through just over 100 lengths each day, five days a week. Her record for a day was 180 lengths!!
A fellow pool user said: "Anyone who swims will know what she has achieved. It's one thing to swim 100 lengths in one day, but to do it five days a week for two plus months, that is something else!!!"
Duns swimming pool manager Kirsty Inkpen said Annabelle should now “swim around the coast of Britain”.
“What she has achieved is absolutely wonderful. She’s done brilliant,” Kirsty said.
“Annabelle is a true inspiration to everyone. She has come a long way - I went to school with her. She took each day as it came and it just goes to show what you can achieve. I've never seen her so happy. She just looks so happy.”
To date Annabelle’s swim has raised over £1,200 for Venture Trust. Donations can still be made until the end of September online at Virgin Money Giving.
“The money I am raising will hopefully help people who have fallen on hardship and lost their way and enable them to rebuild their confidence and self-esteem to enjoy a better more fulfilling life,” Annabelle said.
Scottish charity Venture Trust has launched its innovative new employability programme to help Scottish youth experiencing challenging life circumstances turn their life around.
Champion mountain biker and adventure cyclist Lee Craigie along with Venture Trust chief executive Amelia Morgan officially set the wheels in motion for the CashBack Change Cycle programme on Tuesday (August 22) at the Hermitage of Braid Nature Reserve in Edinburgh.
The CashBack Change Cycle programme will give more than 200 vulnerable young people aged 16 to 24 from areas of deprivation across Scotland the tools to move into education, training, volunteering, work experience or employment.
The elements of the course include employability sessions, bike construction and maintenance including workshop experience with The Bike Station and a short wilderness residential that has work-related tasks and biking.
Participants will get to keep the bike they have built and use it for job hunting, accessing services, training, getting to work and leisure.
Lee spoke of her days as a teenager when she struggled to “fit in” and how getting on a bike played a big part in changing her life in a positive way.
She captivated those at the launch, including future programme participants, with inspirational tales of determination and willpower from her recent endurance race - the Tour Divide. The Tour Divide is an ultra-cycling challenge to pedal solo and self-supported the length of the Rocky Mountains, from Canada to the Mexican border where riders have to test themselves against mountains, deserts, bears and rattlesnakes.
A bike could be more than just a piece of equipment used for riding from one place to another, Lee said. It could be used “to change your life”. She encouraged those about to do the CashBack Change Cycle programme to think about the transformational powers new skills, motivation, determination and two wheels could have.
Many young people in Scotland still face barriers to gaining employment. These include drug and alcohol addiction, a criminal record, homelessness and other issues and it is important they have the support to make positive changes.
The three-week programme is funded by a grant from CashBack for Communities, a Scottish Government programme which takes funds recovered from the proceeds of crime and invests them into free activities and programmes for young people across Scotland.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said: “Through CashBack we are supporting many of Scotland’s most disadvantaged young people to reach their full potential in life, helping them to learn new skills, boost their confidence and develop as responsible citizens."
“We are committed to tackling inequality and project such as Cashback Change Cycle will offer our most disadvantaged young people the opportunity to get involved in positive activities which will raise their attainment, ambition and aspirations.”
Venture Trust’s CEO Amelia Morgan said: “We are delighted to be launching this programme, partnering with The Bike Station, which will support young people to develop the skills, confidence and resilience to be ready to enter education, training or employment. Enabling young people to get a job and keep a job is a key priority for us to break a cycle of disadvantage and we are grateful to have the support of CashBack for Communities.”
For more information on the CashBack Change Cycle programme click here.
Venture Trust’s programmes for ex-service personnel have been featured in The Scotsman on Thursday, August 17th
The double page article highlighted the positive results emerging from the Positive Futures programme and for veterans on the Living Wild programme.
The article also explained how Venture Trust is filling a gap in support services for ex-servicemen and women with its unique three-phase programmes.
Interim findings from an independent evaluation suggest the Positive Futures programme is unique: “No other organisation is offering a three-phase programme for veterans, combining key ingredients delivered across three sequential phases.” Participants are improving their confidence, motivation and developing new skills to better deal with stressful, unfamiliar or negative situations. This is leading to better health, stability, education, training, employment or volunteering opportunities with Venture Trust and the organisation’s many partners.
Partner agencies and organisations have reported the improvement in the quality life for veterans they have referred to venture Trust.
“There have been dramatic and lasting life-changing outcomes. Clients are moving into employment, volunteering, education and training.”
Moving forward, with continued support from funding and delivery partners, Venture Trust wants to use evidence-based outcomes to inform and influence policy and best practice for ex-servicemen and women across the UK.
Venture Trust’s programmes are making a difference. They are helping veterans who are struggling with the transition to civilian life make positive changes.
“In essence, Venture Trust has given me a platform to enhance my life quality and the ability to help my fellow veterans.” – Brian Moran former Royal Marine Commando
You can read the full article on The Scotsman website.