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James’ story: From care experienced to college dreams

In and out of care as a child, James’ life in his own words was “chaotic” and “unstable”.

His education suffered as he struggled at school, his relationship with his family was turbulent, he committed several low-level offences and at times his behaviour was out of control.

From care experience, James found himself in a hostel for young people where instability and uncertainty were still part of his everyday life. Dreams and aspirations were buried beneath stress, anxiety and depression. “It was really hard to see any kind of future the way my life was going,” he said. “My life was kind of a nightmare.” His confidence was at rock bottom and he had “no hope”.

The issues faced by James – such as lack of stability, poor educational attainment and negative social or family relationships – are identified as some of the reasons care experienced young people experience poorer life outcomes than their non-care counterparts. These include: worse mental health and physical well-being, poorer access to continuing education or training, greater unemployment and homelessness, and an increased likelihood of involvement in or exposure to criminal activity1.

James was still a teenager when he made the transition out of the care system and into supported accommodation. It was a difficult time and one for which he did not have much preparation for. In contrast most, young people move towards independence gradually, and with ongoing support from family and friends.

This is where Venture Trust works with its partners – such as Who Cares? Scotland, Move On, and Life Changes Trust – to support young people as they move beyond their initial transition out of the care system and into young adulthood.

Many have experienced family life where unemployment, drug and alcohol misuse or violence is part of their everyday experience - making it hard to get into mainstream education or work. Venture Trust delivers intensive needs-led personal development in communities and the Scottish wilderness. Young people are supported to gain the life skills, stability and confidence to become more employable or more stable, raise aspirations, and change behaviours.

“When I was living in the hostel I never looked ahead,” James said. “I had no confidence or motivation and I was struggling to see a good life for myself.”

When life was at this low point, James was introduced to Venture Trust and the Inspiring Young Futures programme funded by The Big Lottery Fund, Inspiring Scotland, the Scottish Government and European Social Fund. Independent research shows nearly 25 per cent of young people Venture Trust supports on this programme are care experienced.

James worked with an Outreach Worker in the community building up the skills he would need to then take part in a wilderness journey. He learnt to control his emotions along with his thinking and decision-making processes.

“They never pushed you. It was always working at my pace and in a way that I never felt any pressure,” he said.

It was freezing and wet at times as James and the rest of his group hiked and camped in the ancient forest along the shores of Loch Rannoch. They were out in the Scottish wilderness as the ‘Beast from the East’ weather bomb lashed the UK. The demanding nature of the wilderness presents participants with emotional, social and physical challenges. These challenges are all designed to enable them to develop more positive and productive attitudes and behaviours.

“It was tough but I loved it. We did activities that taught us to deal with the challenges and make decisions under stressful situations. We were shown how to work through problems, communicate and work together,” James said.

The shy young man who was lacking in confidence and battled with anxiety and anger returned from the frozen wilds “the same person but different”. “I felt more confident and motivated. I felt like I could do things I never thought I could. I have also learnt to control the way I deal with things. If things didn’t work out I would go into a rage. Now I go through the processes I was shown.”

Following his engagement with the Inspiring Young Futures programme, James felt he was ready to continue to take the next steps towards a better future. He decided to take part in one of Venture Trust’s employability programmes – the CashBack Change Cycle programme.

The programme is funded by CashBack For Communities and 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.

Young people in care are just like all other young people but undeniably face greater challenges. Advocacy work by such organisations as Who Cares? Scotland and Life Changes Trust is ensuring the care system is improving but it is still a sad fact that life outcomes for care experienced young people can be much poorer than their non-care peers.

Venture Trust and our partners believe all young people should have the opportunities to succeed.

“I am in a really good place right now. Since working with Venture Trust I have come from a place where I couldn’t see a future. Getting a job or going to college was something I never thought was possible. Now I am working towards applying for college. I now have the confidence and motivation and belief that this is possible.”

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

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