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Next Steps playing a crucial role in Community Justice: Independent Evaluation

An external evaluation of Venture Trust's Next Steps programme has found it plays a vital role helping women involved in offending or at high risk of offending make changes to their lives.

The independent evaluation, officially released in March by SMCI Associates, reports: "The Next Steps programme is seen as absolutely complementing other provision for women in the criminal justice system."

The three year evaluation was designed to explore the programme’s impact on the personal and social development needs of the participants, and to what degree the project outcomes have been achieved.

The evaluation will provide learning outcomes for Venture Trust, and other stakeholders interested in either issues surrounding reducing (re)offending for women caught up in the criminal justice system or the use of wilderness/outdoor activities within personal and social development with vulnerable groups.

Venture Trust aims to support people who, because of their life experiences, have become marginalised and vulnerable and are experiencing chaotic and complex lifestyles. It aims to do this by supporting them to recognise what they need to change, and then to develop the confidence, motivation and life skills that they need to make those changes.

The findings of the evaluation highlight the success of the Next Steps programme and its importance in relation to improved stability and reduced likelihood of reoffending, employability and self-confidence for women who complete the programme.

Stakeholders note "the unique value of the Next Steps programme, in particular the residential wilderness aspects of it. They are clear that there would be a gap in provision if the programme did not exist, with no alternative provision".

Key Findings:

  • 644 women supported by Next Steps
  • 256 successfully completed the five day wilderness journey and progressed into phase 3 of the programme.
  • More than half of all women who completed the wilderness journey went on to achieve at least one ‘positive destination’ (education, employment, training or volunteering)
  • Programme participants’ self-confidence, employability, community bonds, use of local services and opportunities, and stability increased on average by 71%
  • 89% of participants’ self confidence had improved
  • 84% had improved their employability
  • 66% had become more stable and less likely to reoffend
  • 60% had improved bonds with their community
  • 60% had increased their use of community services and opportunities

"Women who have participated in the Next Steps programme are given hope that they can learn to live a new/better way of life and feel they are given a second chance to feel like a person without a label." - Stakeholder

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

Read the evaluation summary here.

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