Venture Trust along with over 200 organisations across the UK, has signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling on the Government to publicly commit to a new Opportunity Guarantee.
The UK is experiencing the biggest economic crisis in 300 years, and on Tuesday 16th June latest figures are expected to show the highest rate of unemployment in over 100 years.
The new Opportunity Guarantee scheme, backed by some of the UK’s biggest employers, would help to kick start the UK’s economic recovery by investing in jobs of the future, helping people access the jobs market, and providing opportunities for young people.
The open letter, signed by cross industry partners - including The Prince’s Trust, Heathrow Airport, Asda, universities and charities – has political backing from Metro Mayors Steve Rotheram (Liverpool City Region), Dan Jarvis (Sheffield City Region) and Jamie Driscoll (North of Tyne Combined Authority).
Together, over 200 voices called on Government to invest in a new Opportunity Guarantee that:
- Promotes job creation by investing in the jobs that we need for the future
- Doubles the capacity in services that help people into jobs, with greatest support for those facing disadvantage
- Provides an education place, apprenticeship, or job for every young person
Commenting on the open letter, Lord Bob Kerslake said: “The message to Government is clear – with the Jobs retention Scheme winding up, we must invest in an Opportunities Guarantee. We need to create opportunities for people to skill up, and have a guaranteed role in our economic recovery, and we must put these plans in place now.”
Venture Trust CEO Amelia Morgan said: “We need to act now and invest in an Opportunities Guarantee to protect more futures. We know from the evidence of the 2008 financial crash that if we do nothing the economic impact of this crisis will fall disproportionately on poor families and communities, and on young people at the start of their careers. Investing in young people, especially those at significant risk of being left behind, will enable us to support them to build the skills and foundations for greater resilience whilst they navigate taking up training opportunities or maximising their chances of getting in, and staying in work.”
Digital services are the only services now
People who needed help from local services, charities and the public sector have been cut off from that help by lockdown. Regular meetings with social workers, addiction counsellors, mentors and community workers can no longer take place in person. Phone calls, video chats and text messages have replaced meeting face-to-face. For those who can use these lifelines, help is still available. But for too many people, the capacity to reach that help is throttled by data poverty. Giving people the kit, data capacity and skills to reach these services is vital to ensure they can get the help they need.
Like many charities and service providers, Venture Trust has moved from in person support to contacting our participants digitally. That’s brought technical challenges and requires us to embrace new ways of working. That’s to be expected, and we are continuing to adapt. But a service is only as good as it is accessible. Being cut-off is no good in a crisis.
Data poverty isolates those who need the most help
One in eight of our participants don’t have the hardware to connect – that’s no smartphone, no computer, no tablet. Even if you have the hardware, that doesn’t guarantee internet access – over half of the people we work with don’t have access to Wi-Fi, 38% only have limited data plans and 27% - over 1 in 4 – don’t have any access to data at all. Even a simple phone call can be out of reach for some. Close to half, (44%) of our participants eke out Pay As You Go minutes while 25% did not have any available minutes to make calls when our staff got in touch with them.
Without the hardware or data access to get online, or even just the wherewithal to make a phone call, people are cut off from services just as they need them most. Data poverty was already holding people back in the pre-Covid19 world. Now that data access is a necessity to engage with the rest of the world, people in poverty are at severe risk of being cut-off from the support and the relationships they need to survive lockdown.
Scotland can keep people connected
There is an immediate need to alleviate data poverty. Thanks to our funders, we have been able to give out data poverty grants to 48 people supporting them to get the equipment or data they need to stay in touch with us, with other support services and with their friends and family. We also work with charities like PeopleKnowHow, who give people the hardware they need to get online. But we’re a small charity and this is a drop in the ocean. There is a great deal more to do and it will need a concerted effort by the third sector, the public sector and the private sector to get it done. The ConnectingScotland programme is doing good work making sure those who are at clinically high-risk are able to get online and reach services. This is vital work, but does not address those who, while not at high-risk directly from the virus, are suffering from the effects of lockdown itself - cut off from vital services like addiction counselling, social work or benefits advice. Disruption from these services can be a severe setback in people’s progress towards putting their past behind them and reaching their full potential.
Lockdown’s lost services knock people off track
For people already in a difficult place and getting support to turn their lives around, this pandemic together with lockdown and isolation from family, friends and support services could knock them off track. Half of our clients worry that they face damaging social isolation.
Lockdown is vital for reducing the spread of infection, keeping us safe and avoiding overwhelming the NHS. No question it’s the right thing to do. But for people who were already facing personal challenges or suffering from the effects of poverty and inequality, lockdown means new problems to address.
Vital support disrupted
The effect of lockdown on the people we support has been not only to make their lives even harder but to disrupt the support they need. We are very conscious that for the people we help lockdown has the potential to knock them and their families even further off course.
At Venture Trust we work with people who want our help to turn their lives around and reach their full potential. They come to us already dealing with a range of issues such as poor mental health, lack of qualifications, substance misuse, or fractured family relationships. Sadly, many face not one but many of these challenges. Alongside our vital partners we help provide the support they need to get their lives back on track. We are part of a team of charities and government agencies providing a network of support for an individual.
Listening to people’s lockdown fears
One of the first things we did was to pick up the phone and ask the people we are supporting what they felt lockdown would mean for them. We spoke to 125 people in the first two weeks of lockdown and this is what we found:
48% were worried about social isolation negatively affecting them.
25% suffered from data poverty and worried they would struggle to access help online
33% worried that lockdown would aggravate their mental health problems. (Half of our participants already arrive with mental health issues).
16% were concerned about coping with addiction without access to support services.
Over 80% wanted to speak to their community worker at least once a week.
Concerns over the financial costs of isolation were also significant:
13% - over one in eight – were worried about their finances.
10% were worried about access to food.
15% were worried about how a prolonged period of lockdown will affect their chances of returning to work.
These findings will no doubt be mirrored across Scotland. The new reality of reduced social contact, self-isolation and disruption of services will have a disproportionate effect on people who were already struggling with complex life circumstances.
We need to change what we do to keep doing what we do
In response we have literally turned our services outside – in, moving from group-based personal development in Scotland’s wilderness and outdoors in communities to working with smart technology to reach those who need help most in their own homes. Our new support service is online, with all Venture Trust outreach and development staff providing tailored support by phone, video link or other digital means
Re-organising how we work was a team effort that involved everyone in Venture Trust pulling together to try something new. We know there will be a lot of organisations trying to adapt so here’s what we’ve learned throughout this process:
Put your beneficiaries first. Because we’d talked to people we knew what help they needed. But it still took effort to make sure we focused on these needs and not on what would be easier or less disruptive for us.
Moving quickly means letting go. One of the most inspiring aspects of this challenge has been seeing what can happen when you give staff the freedom to come up with their own solutions rather than trying to force change from the top down.
Keep talking. Letting people find their own adaptations works but the next step is to share them. Make sure everyone knows what’s happenign and what’s changing.
Admin is everything. Once you’ve got new ways of working, you need to make them part of your system. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but to get everyone on the same page quickly you will need new processes for handling these new ways of working – especially for sensitive information.
Look to the future. Some of these changes will be temporary, but some might stick. And even “temporary” could be longer than you think. Makes sure you’ll be able to properly report on what you’ve done, even if only for your own learning down the line.
This is a team effort
We are continuing to take new referrals as well as supporting our existing clients. Beyond that, we are already working alongside local and national government, the wider public sector, our partners in the charity sector and our funders and corporate partners to play our small part to help minimise the disruption lockdown brings to those who were already at risk of falling through the cracks.
We’d also love to hear from everyone else working through these issues. There’s a lot to learn and we’d be very happy to be part of a wider conversation about how Scotland’s third sector adapts to the challenges of coronavirus and lockdown.
For more details please visit: http://www.venturetrust.org.uk/be-well-be-connected-be-ready/
From Monday 23 March 2020, all Venture Trust support staff will be working with people offering tailored support by phone or digital platforms. Prior to the Coronavirus emergency, we were actively supporting 379 people. Our goal is to continue to support them and to help others.
We will use phone or digital contact channels to continue to check in with people, to provide personal development and wellbeing support, whilst getting their feedback on the types of help and support that might make the difference. We are also actively seeking support to combat ‘data poverty’ for people with limited means to buy airtime or who usually rely on public wi-fi.
The new reality of reduced social contact, self-isolation and disruption of services will have a disproportionate effect on people who were already in need of our support. We are using our expertise in personal development and coaching to support people, offering help with:
- Wellbeing – managing being at home, structure, routines and relationships with others.
- Dealing with social isolation – resilience and self-care, helpful resources. Signposting to local and national support and additional services.
- Personal development – we will continue to work on meta skills development, self-awareness and goal setting with additional support aimed at those looking for further training and progression to employment.
Ways of working
Today we have contacted all our delivery partners to update them and to confirm we are still supporting people and very happy to take new referrals. We will have a team of 27 personal development and employability skilled and experienced staff available and engaging with people.
More information on our support will be available online and via our usual phone numbers and contacts.
For referrals the contact form is available on our website here.
We will continually monitor the situation and provide regular updates via our website, social media and direct contact with partners.
We remain committed to adapting and developing our work to meet the changing needs of vulnerable people in a rapidly evolving environment. Working together with partners we would like share insights and contribution to solutions which help us all respond well and be resilient in recovery. Please do get in touch at email@example.com.
As the growing impacts of coronavirus continue to affect more people across the UK, protecting the health and wellbeing of the people we support, and our staff, is our top priority.
In response to the latest developments announced on March 18 by the Scottish Government, Venture Trust is temporarily suspending all programmes in their current form, and in response to COVID-19, will deliver a different service, our dedicated and skilled staff will be offering bespoke support over phone or video platforms – whichever individuals can access.
Our priorities are to continue to support people as the most vulnerable members of our society in a way that is safe, helpful and in line with all Government advice and regulations.
- We will continue to take referrals from our partners with the aim of resuming normal operational procedures once the threat of coronavirus (COVID-19) has passed and we are given the all clear to resume our face-to-face work supporting those in need.
- From Monday 23 March, we are pausing all face-to-face contact between our staff and participants until further notice from government and health authorities.
- Our staff will check in with people, provide personal development and wellbeing support, whilst getting their feedback on the types of help and support that might make the difference. We will use phone, messaging and other digital media to build relationships.
- We will be offering and delivering specific support for people around coronavirus and self-isolation and a significant change of usual routine.
- You will still be able to get in touch with the Venture Trust team by phone or email during business hours.
Our social media channels will be regularly updated, so please check our Facebook, Twitter and website pages for further news. Scottish Government information about COVID-19 (coronavirus) can be found here.
We will also keep our policies under constant review and update with relevant Government advice.