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Venture Trust: A partner in progressive justice in Scotland

Venture Trust is taking part in an innovative new approach to justice.

The Aberdeen Problem-Solving Approach (PSA) is looking to reduce re-offending by focussing on underlying problems linked with persistent, low-level offending. Under the PSA, offenders who would otherwise get a prison sentence are offered a chance to work with social workers and other support networks to help them deal with underlying factors such as debt, addiction, homelessness or past trauma.

Venture Trust has been one of the support services working with Aberdeen community justice partners including the Sheriff Court, criminal justice social workers (CJSW), police and women’s centre.

The project, the first of its kind in Scotland, works closely with women and young men who have multiple complex needs. Rather than being imprisoned, they receive a deferred sentence and talk to social workers and support workers about the underlying problems linked to their offending. A sheriff reviews their progress periodically, praising, warning or encouraging as he or she sees fit.

Referring a PSA participant to Venture Trust is one of the options available to CJSW to help address the issues associated with re-offending. The organisation’s programmes help people involved in the criminal justice system who recognise that they need to address their behaviours and attitudes. They are offered support to develop the skills and motivation to work towards a life free from crime, to become more employable, see more possibilities and build positive relationships with others.

A review of the Aberdeen PSA by Ipsos MORI Scotland and the University of Stirling concluded the approach “shows promise”. It also recommends that community justice partners in other parts of Scotland give consideration to the benefits of a problem-solving approach.

Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive Officer at Venture Trust says: “Often it is poverty, inequality and adverse childhood experiences, and the trauma resulting from domestic abuse and addiction that underpins offending behaviour. These issues need to be addressed and can be best addressed outside of prison for many people.”

“Collaborative and sustained support does break the cycle of offending and reduces the social harm and financial costs for individuals, families and communities. Scotland can create safer communities by being bold. Investing for the long term - in services which work - is fundamental in building confidence for victims of crime, those passing sentences and the public, and will result in making communities safer.”

Ash Denham, Minister for Community Safety, told The Herald: “The numbers involved were small, but the evidence suggested other areas should consider adopting the approach. Initiatives such as the Aberdeen Problem Solving Approach are a great example of the work being done across the country to help individuals caught in the cycle of reoffending to turn their lives around.”

Dr Hannah Graham, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Stirling, was quoted as saying: “Prison has been tried with this group and doesn’t seem to be making a difference. Meanwhile a prison sentence can result in the loss of tenancy, loss of children and a lack of hope - which can increase the risk of further offending.”

“These people are in and out of court, often being given short prison sentences, without the underlying issues being addressed. This approach seeks to do that to address the issues contributing to repetitive cycles of crime and punishment, so they can move on with their lives.”

Note: If any other Sheriffdoms take up the PSA approach and wish to add Venture Trust to their portfolio of supportive services then please contact Gordon Thomson to discuss possibilities.

Gordon can be reached at the following: Phone: 07772484039 Email: gordon@venturetrust.org.uk

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