“My Dad had the opinion that he wasn’t a ‘proper veteran’ - he’d never Served in a ‘real’ war, he hadn’t been injured and he felt other people needed support more. I tried, I really tried to get him to veterans’ services but he could be so stubborn.”
From an early age, Becky was effectively her father’s carer. “It was complete role reversal. I parented him rather than the other way around. I was about 10 when his mental health issues began to affect family life. It was me who took the responsibility of looking after us kids and Dad”. Becky’s carer role continued as she studied, went into work and had her own family.
Over time, she’d watched as her dad, Stewart, gradually isolated himself through confining himself to his own home. Time went on and his behaviours became entrenched. He started to consume rolling news media and wouldn’t leave the house - just in case he missed something. “He’s a very caring man and I’d say he couldn’t take all the world’s troubles on his shoulders, so he should turn the telly to something else. He wouldn’t though.”
Becky vividly remembers coming across Positive Futures. “We’d had his advisor suggesting a service and Dad’s usual stubborn reaction of ‘I’m not taking charity’ or ‘It’s not for me’. To be fair, he had tried some of the suggestions and they hadn’t worked out so he could be a wee bit sceptical.”
Positive Futures struck a real chord with Stewart, who had enjoyed outdoor activities in the Army.
“The next step was probably the best thing that’s happened to Dad in years - he met his Outreach Worker. She’s phenomenal - the most incredible lady - and I can’t praise her or thank her enough for what she, and the rest of the staff, did for Dad. They truly changed my Dad’s life for him.”
Becky was impressed with the management of her father’s case, watching how her Dad engaged with his worker and Positive Futures. “Dad’s needs were accommodated. His Outreach Worker offered a time and a place to meet that Dad could cope with getting to and he was happy meeting her alone. I could see progress even before he went away.”
When her Dad’s Wilderness Journey came around, Becky accompanied her father to the station. “He didn’t want to go. He stood there and made every excuse not to. In the end, I phoned his worker, and she helped to persuade him to go. I wouldn’t say I shoved him on the train but it was very close.”
Waiting to meet her Dad on his return, Becky was apprehensive about how he might be. “A completely different man bounced off the train. The changes in him over those few days were completely incredible - I’d never expected anything like that. I don’t know what I expected but it certainly wasn’t what I got. He was so upbeat and spilling over about the great time he’d had and how wonderful it had been.”
Struck by the immediate changes in her Dad, Becky wasn’t entirely ready for the complete change in his behaviour. From being socially isolated and staying indoors, Stewart started to go out and about. “I’d be in Tesco and he’d pop up there doing his shopping. I’d bump into him in town or see him out and about. It was a real shock at first, but I’ve got used to it. Now, he’s never at home.”
“And he’s turned the telly off.” To Becky this was a strong indicator of lasting change in her Dad, especially when he started to listen to a positive radio station instead. “He listens to good things now rather than bad and he’s taken to pinning positive messages about his flat.”
Stewart’s new behaviours have helped Becky too. “It’s taken a huge weight off my mind. I don’t have to worry about him with the intensity I did before. I didn’t realise what a burden it was until it wasn’t there anymore.”
“I thought there would be a drop off in the effects of being away but there hasn’t been. He goes for everything now. No anxiety, no ‘what if’s?’, no ‘but’s…’ He’s completely changed his life around and he’s happy.”
The only minor downside for Becky is one she’s been very happy to accept. “I’ve lost my on-demand babysitter. Dad was always there, alone in the house, and he would step in if I needed childcare in a hurry. It doesn’t matter though - I’d rather have Dad as he is now than as he was then.”
“Up until the point he went on Positive Futures, I was effectively his carer. I’m not anymore. He looks after himself and there’s now two people living fulfilled lives - him and me. It’s a huge change for me and an even bigger change for him. I do genuinely miss (in a very positive way) not seeing him every day but I wouldn’t ever want to go back to where we were.”
* The names have been changed in this case study
**This is a case study from an independent report of the first three years of the Positive Futures programme by GAP Communications.
*** The programme during this time was funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), a £35 million funding scheme run by FiMT using an endowment awarded by the Big Lottery Fund.
Venture Trust, the Scotland wide charity based in Edinburgh, is pleased to announce the appointment of Susan Davies as its new Chair of the Board.
Susan joined the Venture Trust board in September 2015. She could not be better placed to take on the role of Chair of the Board, guiding Venture Trust charity towards a successful and sustainable future.
Susan has almost 30 years’ experience in the public and third sector, with 18 years at senior level. A biology and environmental graduate from the Universities of St Andrews and Aberdeen respectively, Susan began her career working for the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee in Peterborough. There she was responsible for environmental and biodiversity policy development and coordinating strands of work associated with the implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.
In 2000 she returned to Scotland to work for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), taking on senior management responsibilities for work on biodiversity conservation, recreation and access, and engagement of people with the outdoors through Scotland’s ‘natural health service’.
Susan brings a considerable amount of expertise in strategy, organisational development, partnership working and corporate governance, and has spent the last 12 years at director level.
More recently, in 2015, Susan became acting Chief Executive and accountable officer for SNH, and in 2016 moved to the Scottish Wildlife Trust as Conservation Director. She is responsible for wildlife reserves, species conservation programmes, knowledge and evidence and Living Landscapes. In the latter programmes there is a strong focus on engaging with disadvantaged groups in the natural environment. In January 2019 Susan will be taking on the role of Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre.
Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive Officer at Venture Trust, comments, “We are delighted that Susan will be taking on the role of Chair of the Board of Trustees. She has been with us for over three years, and in that time has demonstrated huge worth in guiding Venture Trust strategically. We very much look forward to working together to build a stronger, more resilient Venture Trust.”
Susan comments, “I am delighted to be taking on the role of Chair of Venture Trust a charity which uses its considerable expertise to support people with challenging lifestyles to look forward and achieve their real potential. Using the natural environment as part of these programmes is something that I strongly believe in. The Venture Trust delivery model and diversity of programmes are unique. I look forward to working with Trustees and staff to raise the profile and strengthen the reach of these in the years ahead.”
Venture Trust bids a fond farewell to Mairi Brackenridge, the organisation’s outgoing chair. Susan adds, “Mairi Brackenridge led the Venture Trust Board for 8 years. Her insights and drive to see the Trust support a broader range of people and to deliver the long term goals of the Trust will be sorely missed by the Trustees and staff alike.”
For more information about Venture Trust's programmes, please visit our programme pages.
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 work, education and training.
The "From Outdoors to Labour Market” Project (FOLM) is being led by the Centre for Innovative Education and includes partners from Poland, Spain, Ireland and Scotland. FOLM is funded from a £3,028,775 (€3,400,000) grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and the Norwegian Grants Fund for Youth Employment.
The multi-national project will aim to give nearly 1000 young people not in education, employment or training – from Poland, Spain and Ireland – the skills and opportunities through innovative outdoor learning to develop life and professional skills to find and sustain employment.
Venture Trust has decades of experience delivering a community and wilderness-based model of personal social development for young people in Scotland. Outdoor activity and experiential learning techniques are used as a mechanism for building confidence and raising aspiration. The organisation has supported thousands of young people to gain the personal skills, motivation and confidence that has allowed them to move towards employment, training and education.
Venture Trust’s expertise in providing support to disadvantaged young people, and the programme’s proven results will be used to help those individuals who are disengaged from the labour market across Europe.
Venture Trust’s head of operations, Mike Strang said: “Venture Trust has now been working in the outdoors with vulnerable groups for more than 20 years. We have a distinctive and unique approach. Venture Trust supports individuals to develop the skills to become more employable and enjoy more stable lives. The outdoor element is a key part of our programme, but it produces great results because we weave community engagement and ongoing support into our offer, and that is what produces sustainable outcomes.”
“Venture Trust will work with The University of Edinburgh to produce a theoretical model based on the way we deliver our programmes and provide shadowing and training for the project’s partners in Spain, Ireland and Poland.”
This “Model for social and personal growth through outdoor learning” will be the blueprint for FOLM’s methodology.
The Centre for Innovative Education (CIE) has recognised the expertise Venture Trust brings to its work with young people in Scotland and approached the organisation to lead the ambitious project.
“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,” Strang said.
“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.”
Scottish Veterans Minister Graeme Dey has met with participants of Venture Trust’s Positive Futures programme at the organisation’s Head Office in Edinburgh, to hear how the scheme has helped them to make sustained positive change.
The meeting provided an opportunity for the veterans to discuss their experiences on the Positive Futures programme, and the impact it has had on their lives. It was also an opportunity for them to speak to Mr Dey about what is being undertaken Scotland-wide to support the small but significant number of ex-service personnel struggling with the transition to civilian life.
Positive Futures, funded by LIBOR (UK Government), comprises a three phase programme, including one-to-one and group work, and an intensive 7-day journey in Scotland’s wilderness, where outdoor activity and experiential learning techniques are used as a mechanism for unlocking and redeploying skills, building confidence and raising aspiration. Following this journey, the participants, of all ages and length of service, are given support to achieve their goals. For many this will result in utilising the skills learnt in service, applying them to prepare for employment, education, training or volunteering.
These veterans are on their way to reaching positive destinations, working towards managing what can be very challenging life circumstances as a result of leaving the military behind. Their struggle to adapt to civilian life can often lead to homelessness, isolation, addiction, abuse, breakdown of family relations, and long term unemployment.
The programme creates a therapeutic environment where those participants with mental health issues (frequently part of a complex presenting set) can identify behaviour triggers and develop, and practice, coping strategies as a foundation for making and sustaining positive life changes.
The event took place at Venture Trust’s head office in Edinburgh on 15 November. Mr Dey visited the office to meet with Venture Trust’s Chief Executive Officer, Amelia Morgan, and to find out a little more about the work that is being done to help our ex-service personnel. Mr Dey then met with the participants and talked to them about their own personal stories and experiences with Venture Trust.
Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive Officer at Venture Trust, comments, “We were delighted that Mr Dey met with us, which sent a really positive message of support to our participants – for those past, and those about to head out on the next Positive Futures journey. For all of those leaving the military, it marks a complete change. Most of those thrive, going on to have successful careers and balanced lives. But for a small minority the transition to civilian life can be overwhelming and confusing which can lead to a multitude of negative circumstances. The Positive Futures programme offers ex-service personnel the support and space to begin to see themselves differently – that they can have a different life.”
Mr Dey said: “I was very pleased to have the opportunity to visit Venture Trust and learn more about their Positive Futures programme, and also to hear first-hand from those who are benefiting from it.
This is an excellent example of a charity offering support to our ex-service men and women by helping them learn new skills, regain their independence and to make positive changes in their lives.”
Venture Trust’s Positive Futures programme has just won the Institute for Outdoor Learning Supporting Health and Wellbeing Project Award. The award was for Venture Trust's work in the outdoors, and recognises schemes that are making a difference to individual and community quality of life.
For the past three years Positive Futures was funded by a grant of £689,453 from the Forces in Mind Trust. Over the course of the three years, an independent evaluation was undertaken and the results were released in November 2018. The report, commissioned by GAP Communications, highlights the significant improvement to participants’ lives while also being cost-effective and high value for money. The programme has delivered overall benefit impacts to society in the region of £2.6m to £4m; for every £1 spent, £4.56 of societal benefit impact has been generated.
For further details of the Venture Trust’s Positive Futures programme, visit: http://www.venturetrust.org.uk/programmes/positive-futures-programme/
Venture Trust’s Positive Futures programme has won the Institute for Outdoor Learning Supporting Health and Wellbeing Project Award.
The Institute for Outdoor Learning (IOL) is the professional body for organisations and individuals who use the outdoors to make a difference for others.
The award was for Venture Trust's work in the outdoors for the Positive Futures programme and recognises schemes that are making a difference to individual and community quality of life.
The Positive Futures Model is a combination of cognitive behavioural approaches, experiential learning, skilled facilitation, relationship building, coaching, mentoring and aftercare. It is delivered through a three-phased programme in the community and in the wilds of Scotland.
Phase one involves community-based support for the individual with an outreach worker to set initial goals, work towards the removal of barriers, stabilise lifestyle, prepare for the wilderness journey along with facilitating the engagement with other services.
Phase two is a seven-day journey in the Scottish wilderness giving veterans – who have spent any length of time in the military – time and space away from daily pressures. It also involves wilderness problem solving challenges, development and review sessions, one-to-one support, group activities, communal living and healthy meal planning and eating.
Phase three builds on the wilderness journey and leads onto professional and peer mentoring, employability opportunities and brokering links to jobs, training, education, volunteering and other services relevant to individual need.
The judges were looking for evidence of: problem diagnosis and a well-developed understanding of the necessary intervention; the underlying methodology and theory of change that shapes provision, and; effective partnerships with health and social welfare professionals.
Faced with a future of increasing obesity, mental health concerns and suicide in the population, well designed and facilitated outdoor learning interventions can provide much needed respite or restorative benefits.
For the past three years Positive Futures has been funded by a grant of £689,453 from the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT). The programme creates a therapeutic environment where those participants with mental health issues (frequently part of a complex presenting set) can identify behaviour triggers, and develop - and practice - coping strategies as a foundation for making and sustaining positive life changes.
An independent report released by GAP Communications this week highlights the significant improvement to participants’ lives while also being cost-effective and high value for money. The programme has delivered overall benefit impacts to society in the region of £2.6m to £4m; for every £1 spent, £4.56 of societal benefit impact has been generated.
Organisations referring veterans to the programme have stated: “The service appeals to ex-service personnel who refuse to engage with therapeutic programmes but who will engage with an outdoors programme.”
In the last round of LIBOR grants, Venture Trust was awarded £699,384. This grant from the UK Government will enable the support of 180 more former service personnel and extends the programme until 2021.
Venture Trust chief executive Amelia Morgan said: “The demanding nature of the outdoors and the wilderness, combined with one-to-one support and group activities, presents participants with emotional, social and physical challenges. These challenges are all designed to enable individuals to develop more positive and productive attitudes and behaviours. The wilderness journey is often the most intensive phase of our programmes, but one which generates a huge sense of achievement, and allows our participants to work with our outreach team to build towards a more sustainable and balanced future.”
In addition to FiMT, the Big Lottery Fund and the Armed Forces Covenant, the Scottish Government, European Social Funds, Edinburgh City Council, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and several trusts and foundations have all contributed financially to service delivery and development over a number of years particularly for individuals caught up in the community justice system.
For more information about Venture Trust and our programmes visit: www.venturetrust.org.uk