This International Women’s Day, we will be celebrating the achievements and inspiring journeys of the women we support on our programmes and our female staff working in our offices, Scottish communities and wild places of Scotland.
This year on March 8 the theme is “An equal world is an enabled world”.
We are proud to be led by a female CEO, we have women in leadership and management positions across our departments including outdoor training, community outreach, administration and board.
Through our programmes of personal development supporting women of all ages struggling with issues such as long-term unemployment, recovery from addiction, homelessness, isolation, involvement in the criminal justice system in Scotland, and a history of trauma or harm, we are challenging inequality for individuals and their communities.
As an organisation we are also challenging stereotypes, fighting bias, broadening perceptions, improving situations and celebrating women's achievements.
Here are some of the stories from the amazing women we have supported to realise or rediscover their unshakable strength, a voice that deserves to be heard, and power.
Lucy spent ten years addicted to heroin. during this time, she was also convicted of theft and lost her son to care. Her life had hit rock bottom.
Today Lucy is completing a college course and looking to go to university. She is drug free and out of the criminal justice system. And she has access to her son.
Read More: Lucy’s story
Annabelle’s alcohol addiction took her to many dark places: attempted suicide, psychiatric care, hurt family and friends, and her two daughters taken away.
Today Annabelle has her girls back, they have moved into a beautiful home. She has the respect of family and friends, a job that she loves and she is happy and healthy.
Read more: Annabelle’s story
The Scottish Government has released the Criminal Justice Social Work statistics in Scotland: 2018-19
Here is our response to the report.
Commitment to community justice
Venture Trust welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to community justice and believes that it has a big role to play in making Scotland’s communities safer. To make it work effectively the third sector, the courts, and local and national governments need to work together to create a system that is robust, reliable and provides the right level of supervision and support to those on orders. That is partly about making sure there are enough places on community justice programmes to meet demand; it is also about making community sentencing an integral part of our justice system in the same way that prison sentencing is.
It’s About Smart Justice. Not Soft Justice
Community justice does work better than short sentences at preventing re-offending, but it needs to be treated as an equal partner: not just in terms of getting the resources it needs but as an integral part of the system that the courts can rely on when passing sentence. Particularly when dealing with people with more severe problems, getting the right expertise in place is crucial to making the system work. This means investing in specialist providers, but also in ensuring that the system is set up to allow the collaboration and integration between services that will ensure people get the right level of supervision and intervention.
Problem: Short prison sentences don’t rehabilitate
Short prison sentences are enough to disrupt employment, medical care, housing and family relationships, but not long enough to tackle the underlying causes of offending behaviour. People jailed for a few months come back out even further from finding a route out of crime than they were when they went in.
We know that many of the people we work with through the criminal justice system have lived through deprivation: poor education, poverty, substance misuse, poor family relationships and mental health issues are all too frequent among our clients. Growing up in poverty, in care, or in traumatic circumstances doesn’t directly equate to ending up in court but these experiences do influence people’s lives negatively, often leaving them isolated from their communities, surrounded by negative influences and feeling unable to take part in society.
Solution: Rehabilitation through personal responsibility, self-confidence and chance of positive role in society
Our work challenges people on criminal justice orders to confront the attitudes and behaviours that have got them here and gives them the capability and motivation to leave that behind and take responsibility for building a better future for themselves and their families.
Through a combination of work in the community and an intense wilderness expedition, we help clients reflect on the choices they make and how these will affect both themselves and others. This is not the easy option and it does not let people off lightly. But unlike a short sentence in prison, we show people new ways to cope with stress and confrontation that help them avoid re-offending.
The best way to steer someone away from crime is to empower them with the tools and skills to make better decisions and to show them that they do have a positive part to play in their community. Building positive relationships, getting away from negative influences, getting ready to get and hold on to a job, and just believing in themselves have a huge impact on people’s desire to build a better life.
Community justice does create safer communities, does break the cycle of offending and does reduce the social harm and financial costs of crime for individuals, families and communities.
Venture Trust’s employability team is launching a series of sessions in Glasgow to further support people get into work, training, education and volunteering.
Employability officer Chelsea Hill said this was part of the sustained support for the organisation’s participants.
“We are offering all Venture Trust participants to drop in to one of our 'Job Clubs' every Wednesday for additional support. We’re providing support and guidance with finding work as well as helping participants apply for jobs, access training, education and volunteering opportunities.
“We’ll also be offering various seminars on things like CV writing, interview techniques, disclosing convictions and more.”
Venture Trust has been leading the way on intensive personal development programmes for people, at any stage in their life, struggling with issues such as long term unemployment, recovery from addiction, homelessness, isolation, involvement in the criminal justice system in Scotland, and a history of trauma or harm.
After completing one of our core programmes data shows 75% of participants have improved their employability skills and 80% have increased confidence.
We also offer a specialised employability programme for young people facing hardship and disadvantage in Scotland who have completed one of our programmes or meet the criteria for direct referral.
The Cashback Change Cycle programme has proven to be successful in providing a pathway into work, study or training.
In the first two years of the programme Venture Trust has worked across 17 Scottish local authorities and engaged 116 young people facing complex life challenges. Of the participants who completed the programme, 94% of participants have reported an increase in skills, 98% participants have achieved accredited learning and 65% of participants have moved into positive destinations including employment, education and training.
However, for some of our participants further support may be needed. This is where the Job Club will make a difference.
“These seminars are designed to target specific areas that we have identified as potential barriers that individuals are facing – from lack of a CV, ineffective job search skills, inexperience with interview techniques, to how they handle disclosing their convictions,” Chelsea said.
The Employability Team is also looking to establish Edinburgh based sessions in the near future.
If you are a current Venture Trust participant in Phase 3 of our core programmes or completed our employability programmes such as Change Cycle or Venture Together and are looking for extra support getting into work, education or training speak to your Outreach Worker or get in touch with the Employability Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Venture Trust is proud to announce the organisation has been accredited as a Living Wage Employer.
Here at Venture Trust we support people struggling with many and complex issues, outside mainstream support and unemployed, or who may have never been in employment.
A significant focus of our support is to equip people to be ‘job ready’, able to access mainstream support, open to further learning and more able to sustain employment to earn a decent standard of living. So they can move beyond ‘getting by’ or struggling in poverty.
Following our commitment to ensure those we support move away from poverty and hardship, we also want to make sure our staff are paid fairly.
Venture Trust chief executive officer Amelia Morgan said: “Paying the Scottish Living Wage is an important step forward for Venture Trust. We are delighted to have achieved accreditation. As a charity, the Scottish Living Wage makes sense, it reflects our commitment to living our values of caring for people. We want to be able to pay all our staff a wage which helps them thrive in life.”
Our Living Wage commitment will see everyone working at Venture Trust receive a minimum hourly wage of £9.30. A rate significantly higher than the government minimum for over 25s, which currently stands at £8.21 per hour.
In Scotland, nearly a fifth of all jobs (17%) pay less than the real Living Wage - around 380,000 jobs. Despite this, we have committed to pay the real Living Wage and deliver a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.
Katherine Chapman, Director, Living Wage Foundation said: “We’re delighted that Venture Trust has joined the movement of over 6000 responsible employers across the UK who voluntarily commit to go further than the government minimum to make sure all their staff earn enough to live on.
“They join thousands of small businesses, as well as household names such as IKEA, Heathrow Airport, Barclays, Chelsea and Everton Football Clubs and many more. These businesses recognise that paying the real Living Wage is the mark of a responsible employer and they, like Venture Trust, believe that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay."
Venture Trust and Cycling Scotland are working in tandem to break the cycle of disadvantage for young people through the power of bicycles.
A grant of £19,950 Cycling Scotland’s Cycling Friendly Communities Development Fund (CFCDF), provided by the Scottish Government, will fund part of Venture Trust’s Change Cycle employability programme based in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Many young adults referred to Venture Trust have come from life circumstances where they are not given the best start. They are often dealing with one or more of the following: poverty, alcohol and drug addiction, poor family relationships, mental health issues, learning and housing issues. The majority also have had little or no work experience.
The Cashback Change Cycle programme provides an informal educational and training environment focusing on ‘hands on’ learning. This type of learning is often more suited for the young people Venture Trust supports. It results in acquiring new skills along with increased confidence, motivation, ambition using the medium of cycling.
The elements of the programme include employability sessions, bike construction and maintenance including workshop experience and a short wilderness residential that has work-related tasks, and biking. Participants learn about responsibility, time management and are introduced to a Monday to Friday work schedule. 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 will also increase access to bikes and raise interest in cycling for a group of young people who would not normally be able to engage in the activity enjoyed and taken for granted by so many of their peers.
Venture Trust employability team coordinator Fraser Taylor said:
“It’s fantastic to be supported by Cycling Scotland, the nation’s cycling organisation, to support their vision for anyone anywhere in Scotland to cycle easily and safely.
“Many of the young people we work with come from some of Scotland’s poorest areas which has reduced their access to having a bicycle of their own. The CashBack Change Cycle programme supports individuals to build and own their own bike while developing their skills and confidence to move towards sustained education, training and employment so they can have a future that has moved beyond ‘just getting by’ and poverty.”
Pete Mills, Development Officer for the Cycling Friendly Community programme said:
“Historically, the bike has been a tool of freedom, independence and opportunity, and – through the work of the Cashback Change Cycle programme – it continues to be for many young people. We’re very happy to fund the Venture Trust to deliver their invaluable work, supporting Scotland’s vulnerable young people through more access to bikes and opportunities to cycle.”
Together Venture Trust and Cycling Scotland are promoting cycling and increasing participation for young people of all backgrounds, abilities, through the CashBack for Communities Change Cycle programme. But most importantly, the partnership is tackling a cycle of harm and inequality which leaves some people in the margins of society.