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Bothy of Care: Scotland’s wild places as a therapeutic environment to support individuals facing complex barriers

Individuals experiencing multiple, complex barriers in their lives, and struggling with chaotic lifestyles, are frequently the heaviest users of acute health and social care services. These barriers mean thousands of Scots are unable to reach their potential for healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.

In Scotland and the UK there is growing interest in a more holistic and integrated way of supporting individuals facing mental health issues, addiction, involvement with the criminal justice system, long term unemployment and other barriers. This support includes social prescription - helping people to access and use ‘non-medical’ sources of support within their community; harnessing the untapped potential of Scotland’s great outdoors; and integrating, non-clinical services and new partnerships to address these issues.

Venture Trust in partnership with our funders and other organisations is working to tackle the cycle of harm and inequality which drives individuals to become dependent on health and social services and leaves some people in the margins of society.

By offering intensive learning and development in communities and the Scottish wilderness, we support people to gain life skills, stability and confidence. Our work aims to end cycles of disadvantage and adversity for individuals, their families and in communities.

Our approach is unique with the wilderness being used as a catalyst for change. It has also proven to be preventative and long-term through independent evaluations. We focus on an individual’s strengths, equipping them with essential life-skills and building confidence.

Scotland's spectacular wild places are inherently challenging. These environments challenge individuals to focus on actions and their consequences - encouraging the discovery of new skills and talents and helping participants to become more self-reliant. The sense of space and the distance from everyday life gives individuals time to reflect on their lives and plan the changes they'd like to make. The therapeutic environment of the outdoors heightens the power of learning through the development work participants undertake.

Watch Jim's Story below

This week Venture Trust senior staff – head of business development Malcolm Jack and head of operations Mike Strang – met with Scottish Government staff in relevant Directorates to share our innovative approach which focuses on developing the life skills, stability and resilience individuals often need to overcome cycles of disadvantage and adversity.

Malcolm said: “In the context of heightened concern around mental health and wellbeing, particularly affecting those considered most vulnerable and disengaged from mainstream services, the presentation highlighted how Venture Trust’s work resonates the house of care principles in a practical way and contributes to cross-policy outcomes through person-centred support and partnership.”

It was also an opportunity to gain the perspectives of Government staff to inform Venture Trust’s aspirations to make a greater contribution to Scotland’s health & wellbeing outcomes, he said.

With an integrated and aligned approach that is person-centred, individuals can find stability and be self-reliant. They can prioritise their health, specifically their mental wellbeing and tackle alcohol or substance misuse. This will contribute to meeting Scottish Government policy objectives across departments including improving health and wellbeing, making Scotland a safer place through innovative justice, tackling homelessness, giving everyone access to public services and improving people's job prospects.

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