• | News | Participant stories

    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:

  • | News

    Falling through the cracks: The ‘hidden’ veterans

    Venture Trust’s programme for ex-service personnel featured in The Scotsman

    The article highlighted how Venture Trust is enabling 'hidden' veterans to access support services and is filling a gap for ex-servicemen and women with its unique three-phase programmes.

    With over 50 veterans’ organisations in Scotland alone, there is no shortage of services being offered to veterans after they leave the Armed Forces. These services typically support veterans who are older people, have been wounded or are suffering from recognised mental health issues along with those struggling with the transition to civilian life. However, research findings emerging from Scottish charity Venture Trust and insights from the organisation’s work with ex-servicemen and women has highlighted there is a small but significant group of struggling working-age veterans who are not accessing existing support services. These are the ‘hidden veterans’.

    An independent study of Venture Trust’s programme specifically for veterans struggling with civilian life – Positive Futures – highlighted that ex-servicemen and women who did not take part in a tour of duty, face active combat or were Early Service Leavers (ESLs) showed reservations about engaging with veterans support services.

    There are multiple reasons why some veterans end up ‘hidden’. However, it is vital that organisations collaborate to find and support those falling through the cracks. Reaching them, engaging them and helping them overcome their struggles is hugely important to the individuals, to their families and to society as whole.

    Read the article: ‘Hidden’ veterans must not be allowed to fall through the cracks

    The programme to date and the research - to be officially launched at an exclusive event on November 6th - has been funded for the past three years by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), a £35 million funding scheme run by FiMT using an endowment awarded by the Big Lottery Fund.

    With the FiMT grant coming to an end at the end of September 2018, Venture Trust secured a £699,384 LIBOR funding grant. The grant from the UK Government will enable Venture Trust to support even more former servicemen and women and extends the programme until 2021.

    Funding from the Armed Forces Covenant also supports our work with ex-service personnel caught up in the Scottish community justice system. The European Social Fund also provides funding for our core programmes.

    For more information about Venture Trust's programme for ex-service personnel visit: Positive Futures

  • | News | Participant stories

    Making the most of a second chance

    It’s a bit "surreal" for Lucy as she watches a ‘stranger’ staring at the giant photograph of her on the wall. The ‘stranger’ is wearing a set of headphones and is transfixed as they listen to her story.

    All around the room there are ‘strangers’ plugged in and looking at a series of powerful images while listening to the accompanying audio.

    It’s the launch of Community Justice Scotland’s first national campaign aimed at changing perceptions of what justice should look like in 21st century Scotland. Part of the launch is an audio exhibition featuring the powerful stories of those people who have grabbed their second chance.

    Second Chancers is centred around the voices of those whose lives have been touched by the justice system. Comprising of a series of short documentary films and a touring audio exhibition, the campaign tells authentic and raw stories of success and failure, change and transformation, obstacles and helping hands. It paints a warts-and-all picture of what works, what doesn’t and what we should be doing better.

    Lucy – a former Venture Trust participant – is one of those voices.

    “I wanted to be part of the campaign because I was given a second chance. Without that second chance and the support from Venture Trust and other organisations I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be working towards trying to help other people caught up in my situation.”

    “That second chance allowed me to become part of society and my community again. It allowed me to repair broken relationships, get healthy, get an education and have hope. We’ve all made mistakes and if more people are given the support and opportunity to change, Scotland will be a better and safer place.”

    Scotland has one of the highest incarceration rates in Europe. Scandinavia’s incarceration rate is almost half that of Scotland’s, whilst having a similar crime rate. Short sentences in prison are not only less effective at reducing reoffending than sentences in the community, but can have additional effects beyond the time spent inside, including homelessness, unemployment and family separation.

    Prison will always need to be an option for serious and violent crime but there is irrefutable evidence community justice is more effective than a short prison term.

    Venture Trust has two criminal justice programmes that are integral to the Scottish justice landscape, Living Wild and Next Steps. The focus is on supporting individuals in a community and wilderness setting to make positive changes through personal development, experiential learning and acquiring life skills. Participants are helped to raise their aspirations, confidence, understand cause and effect and responsibility, and give them space for change. In a recent study, evidence suggests that 75 per cent of women who have completed the Next Steps programme are less likely to reoffend, and 83 per cent are employable, with a significant number already in work.

    Venture Trust CEO Amelia Morgan said: “Many of those facing short term sentences are typically struggling with issues such as addiction, homelessness, isolation, and long term unemployment, as well as mental health problems. Often, it is these issues that have led to criminal activity, causing chaos and disruption amongst family and friends. A prison sentence, no matter how short, often heavily affects the individual and their family members.

    “People do deserve a second chance. Someone’s past – where they grew up, their family background or previous negative and damaging experiences – does not have to define them.”

    Community Justice Scotland chief executive Karyn McCluskey said: “Scotland has always been a country of inventors, explorers and innovators. In the fields of science, engineering and technology, we strive for what works rather than what has always been done. Why would we approach justice any differently?

    “We deserve a smart justice system driven by the best evidence of what reduces and prevents offending, repairs harm and improves the lives of everyone. Isn’t that what justice is for?”

    Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government was commitment to supporting those who have offended to address the reasons for their behaviour so they can contribute positively to their communities.

    “Short custodial sentences often serve little purpose and this campaign supports our progressive, evidence-led approach to preventing and reducing offending and making communities safer.”

    For more information about Venture Trust visit our website:

  • | News | Participant stories

    Venture Trust nominated for Herald Society Awards

    Venture Trust has been shortlisted for the 2018 Herald Society Awards.

    CashBack Change Cycle – the organisation’s employability programme targeting disadvantaged young people – has been selected as a finalist in the Young People’s Project of the Year Award.

    Judges were on the lookout for a team or initiative working with young people, which has achieved results that others haven’t managed, perhaps through creative or imaginative approaches.

    The CashBack Change Cycle programme – funded by a grant from CashBack for Communities – is breaking the cycle of long-term unemployment associated with some of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people. By providing an opportunity that relates to young people and keeps them engaged while they gain important life and employability skills, Venture Trust is helping those young people to improve their quality of life.

    The programme 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. The programme aims to work with 250 young people over three years, supporting their progression onto education, training, volunteering, or employment.

    “I have to admit that was the best course I have done. It was comfortable and safe including the going on the residential. I didn't always enjoy the CV work but I'm glad I got the help to sort it and get it done. I feel a lot better about myself and feel ready to take anything on now because of the course.” – Cashback Change Cycle participant

    Many of the participants on Cashback Change Cycle have first taken part in Venture Trust’s Inspiring Young Futures programme. This involves intensive needs-led personal development in communities and the Scottish wilderness, where participants are supported to gain the life skills, stability and confidence to then progress onto the employability programme.

    There are agencies getting young people ready for work but most of those young adults already have the soft skills to engage in training or to start working. The people Venture Trust helps first require significant investment to achieve greater stability – addressing chaotic or destructive behaviours to become ready for training and employment so that they can sustain a job.

    Many have experienced family life where unemployment, drug and alcohol misuse or violence are a part of their everyday experience- making it hard to get into mainstream education or work. Through its programmes for young people, Venture Trust provides opportunities for developing the skills needed to become more employable or more stable, raises aspirations, and changes behaviours so that young people can build and maintain positive, quality relationships with those around them.

    “Talking to people face to face every day…has helped me to become more confident…I had quite a bit of anxiety, but now I feel…. well different. I just do things now.” – Cashback Change Cycle participant

    Venture Trust is proud to be delivering the CashBack Change Cycle programme with Bike for Good Glasgow and The Bike Station Edinburgh with additional support from Yorkshire & Clydesdale Bank Foundation’s Spirit of the Community Awards 2018, The Percy Bilton Charity, The Hugh Stenhouse Foundation and The Cotton Trust.

    The Herald Society Awards winners will be announced at a gala event on Thursday November 1st.

    For more information about Venture Trust visit:

  • | News

    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:

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