Oscar lost his 17-year-old sister to a drug overdose.
The trauma and challenges he faced following this “knocked him off his path”.
He turned to alcohol to cope with the pain and sadness. He almost ended up in the criminal justice system through anti-social behaviour. He also began suffering from isolation and a loss of confidence and motivation.
The chance to turn his life around came when Oscar was referred to Venture Trust and he began a series of programmes for young people offered by the organisation. One of these programmes is the Inspiring Young Futures programme which supports young people facing multiple and complex challenges in their life. The programme offers regular community-based outreach support wrapped around an 8-day Wilderness Journey usually in the highlands of Scotland. Through intensive learning and personal development individuals will consolidate their new skills, boost confidence, motivation and aspirations.
Inspiring Young Futures is designed for young people aged 16-25, struggling with a range of challenging circumstances
Many of the young people who complete the Inspiring Young Futures programme are then signposted to our employability programme – CashBack Change Cycle.
The CashBack Change Cycle programme is funded by the Scottish Government’s Cashback for Communities which takes funds recovered from the proceeds of crime and invests them to deliver activities and opportunities for disadvantaged young people.
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 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.
Oscar excelled on the course. He is now in college and the skills he developed on the CashBack Change Cycle programme has allowed him to get a job in a bicycle workshop.
“I am doing something I love, and my life is back on the right path”.
Riding to success with Cashback for Communities:
In the first two years of the CashBack Change Cycle programme Venture Trust has:
• Worked across 17 Scottish local authorities
• Engaged 116 young people facing complex life challenges
Of the participants who completed the programme over the two years:
• 91% of participants have reported an increase in their confidence
• 94% of participants have reported an increase in skills
• 98% participants have achieved accredited learning
• 81% of participants across the programme’s two years have reported an increase in wellbeing
• 65% of participants have moved into positive destinations including employment, education and training
Scotland is a country that is renowned for innovation and expertise.
At Venture Trust that spirit of innovation has been channelled to successfully support disadvantaged people into work, education and training using the outdoors and wilderness areas of Scotland.
We combine expeditions in Scotland’s wilderness with personal social development theory and community outreach to help people turn their lives around.
Now Venture Trust’s expertise in outdoor learning has resulted in the organisation being selected as the expert partner for a European consortium that will use the outdoors to get young people into the EU labour market.
The FOLM "From Outdoors to Labour Market" project is being led by the CIE Center for Innovative Education and includes partners from Poland, Spain, Ireland and Scotland. FOLM is funded from a £3,000,000 (€3,400,000) grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment.
The successful model we have used for supporting long-term unemployed young people into work will be showcased at the European Parliament in Brussels in December at the New Education Forum (NEF).
The forum is a platform for exchanging knowledge, experiences and contacts in the fields of social innovations. NEF acts at a European level and has representatives from more than 190 institutions. These include authorities from European regions and cities, higher education and research institutions, Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers and industry representatives from 17 EU countries.
This year, leading Scottish employability charity Venture Trust and The University of Edinburgh will take centre stage at the NEF forum. Scotland, like the rest of Europe, faces the challenges of finding new and innovative ways to reach disenfranchised youth: those young people furthest away from the labour market.
By supporting the FOLM project Venture Trust can share learning and extend the reach of our work by enabling partners to work in a meaningful way with hundreds of young people not in education, training or employment in wider Europe.
Our programmes continue to contribute to a progressive society here in Scotland and now we are delighted to be able to extend that approach to European partner countries.
Dean was homeless at 16. He faced the high risk of social isolation and long-term unemployment. Jonathan got caught up in the criminal justice system after he turned to alcohol and drugs to deal with trauma and challenges in his young life. Aiden found himself couch surfing and without permanent accommodation aged 16. This instability made it very hard for him to focus on finding a job.
Today, Dean is an apprentice vehicle technician with one of the UK’s largest independently owned car retailers and he is living in his own flat. Jonathan has completed a personal development and employability programme with Venture Trust. He is now confident he can work towards getting a job and he has overcome his struggles with substance misuse. Aiden has been supported to find stable accommodation, he has completed Venture Trust’s employability programme – CashBack for Communities Change Cycle – and is working for a large cleaning company.
Watch their stories here: Venture Trust Inspiring Young Futures
Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd met with a group of young people who returned from eight-days in the Scottish outdoors as part of their journey of personal development with Venture Trust.
Inspiring Young Futures is designed for disadvantaged and often vulnerable young people. It supports them to work on skills such as establishing trust, personal boundaries, consequential thinking, problem-solving, dealing with challenging situations, and responsibility and accountability.
This is achieved through sustained support in the young person’s community and with learning and development in the Scottish wilderness. The outdoors offers inherent challenge for individuals to reflect on beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. With time and space away from influences at home, individuals can unlock skills and learn new, more positive, ways of approaching situations.
Ms Todd said:
“The inspiring effort from the staff at the Venture Trust supports disadvantaged young people, helps them to reach their potential and helps make Scotland the best place to grow up.
“When children and young people have been exposed to adverse childhood experiences and trauma, a holistic approach taking account of their needs has the best chance of keeping them safe.
“The Inspiring Young Futures and the Cashback for Communities Change Cycle programmes are a great example of how a preventative approach is essential to improving life chances of children and young people and helping them move on to positive futures.”
Venture Trust chief executive Amelia Morgan said:
“It was fantastic to have the Minister visit our base in Stirling and meet with the young people who are working towards reaching their potential. Many young people 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.
“Our personal development programmes help young people facing challenges in their lives to set out and achieve their goals, grow in confidence and stability. By offering intensive learning and development in communities and the Scottish wilderness, we help 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.”
Where someone grew up, their family background or previous negative and damaging experiences - do not have to define them. We can put this right. Everyone deserves compassion, access to opportunity and justice. By empowering the young people we support to share their experiences coupled with evidence of what works, we can make the case for change. We can tackle disadvantage and inequality that is restricting their potential.
Historic Perthshire was the setting for an innovative new partnership between Venture Trust and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) that saw a group of vulnerable women exploring and understanding the past in order to move towards a better future.
Photo Credit: Historic Environment Scotland
Understanding Our Place in Time – funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund - combines historic and heritage themes with Venture Trust’s Next Steps programme which supports women involved in offending or at high risk of offending, suffering from trauma or abusive relationships, facing homelessness, misuse of drugs or alcohol or other challenging life circumstances.
The personal development programme is made up of three-phases one of which involves getting women into the outdoors. This is preceded by one-to-one support followed with ongoing skills development in the community. HES and Venture Trust staff will work together to weave heritage and the historic environment throughout the programme.
For many Next Steps participants life has been filled with chaos, fear and anxiety. Engaging in history and getting outdoors is often the furthest thing from their minds or is not possible in their current situation.
During the five-day outdoor residential phase in Perthshire, while hiking, abseiling, and canoeing the group of women learnt history isn’t just about their past, it is a vital part of all their lives, right now. It tells about the past, the present – and even points the way to the future. The historic environment makes a real difference to people’s lives. A difference to health, economy, culture and environment.
Reaching out to touch the ancient stone wall of Dunkeld’s ruined cathedral, drifting on Loch Faskally to learn about an old hydro-electric power station and hearing and creating their own tales and myths the women saw the historic environment, connected with it, created it, understood it and explored it. Something they will be able to continue to do in everyday life.
Venture Trust head of operations Mike Strang said:
“A connection to our heritage is important, as it brings us closer to our land, brings an insight into what has been there before and our roots. It teaches us what we need to do to safeguard for future generations. Understanding our heritage also builds connection with our communities and society creating bonds and contributors.
“We are delighted to be able to work with HES to build heritage into our Next Steps programme.”
HES senior casework officer James Turner said:
“Using Venture Trust’s outdoor learning approach, and Historic Environment Scotland’s mission to widen opportunities for everyone to understand, enjoy, and connect with the historic environment, we greatly welcomed the opportunity to work with the participants of this project.
“We visited Dunkeld Cathedral to consider how the historic environment can offer a valuable resource and breathing space from day to day life, took a canoe trip on Loch Faskally to chat about the B-listed 1950 Clunie hydro-electric power station and its place in the landscape, and rounded up our involvement with a session discussing local folklore, ballads and storytelling.
“We hope we have been able to show that the past can make a better future, change lives for the better, make us feel happier, more informed, better connected, and to encourage all of us to get outdoors and active.”
Head of The National Lottery Heritage Fund Scotland Caroline Clark said:
“The National Lottery Heritage Fund encourages organisations working in heritage to approach and engage with others who have broader health and wellbeing aims. Understanding Our Place in Time: Women at risk of offending discovering their place in heritage is a fine example of organisations working together, helping individuals to be more active and have a positive impact on their wellbeing.”
The Next Steps programme in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Venture Trust has employed two Community Links Workers to improve and increase the charity’s support of veterans struggling with the transition to civilian life.
The workers, one based in Glasgow and the second in Edinburgh, will engage with local and national support organisations to raise awareness and knowledge of Venture Trust’s programmes for ex Armed Forces Personnel – particularly those with a history of offending behaviours or those reluctant to self-identify as veterans or engage with support.
One of the focuses will be on bridging the gap between veteran and civilian organisations to reach ‘hidden veterans’.
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 from 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’.
There are challenges for organisations working with ex-service personnel who don’t immediately identify themselves as ‘veterans’. Some don’t know they are eligible for support, including ESLs and reservists. Some “don’t think they deserve it” or think “other veterans deserve it more than them”. For others, issues emerge many years after leaving the Armed Forces - issues which may or may not have been caused by their forces’ experience - so there is a reluctance to seek support from veterans’ organisations. Studies reveal ESLs along with veterans caught up in the criminal justice system are most at risk of making a poor transition from service to civilian life, so it is important these groups are engaged to access available support.
By employing two dedicated staff who have served in the Armed Forces or have experience of working with the Armed Forces, Venture Trust will further strengthen and broaden its partnerships with military charities, the wider third sector and public sector agencies to reach hidden veterans more effectively.
Venture Trust helps struggling veterans – no matter how long their military service – work towards achieving their personal goals. These could be re-deploying skills learnt within the military, finding a home, rebuilding broken relationships, working towards living a healthy, safe and stable life, retraining or applying for a job or utilising their skills through volunteering.
Newly appointed Community Links Worker (East) Karen Holmes said: “This role is very important as there are ex-military personnel out there that can benefit from Venture Trust’s programmes.
Karen is a former servicewoman and understands the importance of getting support when faced with challenges transitioning to civilian life. After overcoming her challenges with the support of Venture Trust she is now working for us.
“I strongly believe in the programmes they run as I was once a participant. You get support all the way through the three-phase programme of personal development.
“This is my dream job, I will be helping ex-military personnel, but I will be also promoting the organisation and the work we do. I hope to make Venture Trust more visible to other military and civilian organisations and to engage in partnerships with them,” she said.
“If you are thinking of attending Positive Futures or referring a client, go to the website, get in touch and send in a referral form. Don’t wait. It could be you next making positive changes and looking at a positive future.”
Find out more: www.venturetrust.org.uk
The positions of the Community Links Workers are made possible by funding from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.