Participant stories

  • | 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: www.venturetrust.org.uk

  • | 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: www.venturetrust.org.uk

  • | Films | News | Participant stories

    Breaking Free with Venture Trust

    The sun is shining in Portobello.

    Stephen is smiling and excited as he talks about supporting and mentoring people fighting to break free from the “grip” and “madness” of addiction and the pain and suffering addiction brings.

    He has just finished a peer mentor training programme and is now qualified to help those facing the same struggles he has.

    “My life is brilliant right now,” he says.

    However, life was not always sunny for Stephen.

    As a teen he turned to drugs as an escape from the trauma and turmoil in his life.

    His addiction caused his life to spiral out of control. He lost everything that was once important to him - family, friends, his home and eventually his freedom.

    After a chaotic childhood, Stephen joined the army as a 16-year-old as a way to set his life on a steady path. However, after issues with alcohol his military career did not last and shortly after he left the service his girlfriend was tragically killed in an accident.

    “This was me. I had lost my chance at a career I wanted, I had lost my girlfriend, and I had lost the house. I had lost everything,” Stephen recalls.

    At times he felt so lost and alone he believed life was hardly worth living.

    His drug use increased and so did his criminal activities to feed his habit. After several appearances in front of the court, Stephen was eventually locked away in Polmont Young Offenders' Institution.

    Prison didn’t end up being a place of rehabilitation for Stephen. He was able to get access to drugs from while he was behind bars. “It wasn’t a very nice place as you can imagine and I soon got into heroin,” he says.

    For the next decade, life for Stephen was filled with “a misery inside”. Drugs, crime and homelessness were all part of his existence. He even robbed his family. For a moment a relationship with a woman appeared to give Stephen a reason to change his life. But the relationship ended and he once more turned to the only source of relief he knew – drugs.

    “I started using legal highs. That’s when I really hit rock bottom. I had drug psychosis, I was running about with knives. It was absolute madness. I lost 25 kilogrammes in two months. I had to be carried out of my house and into hospital,” Stephen remembers.

    “I had no will to live.”

    On his release from hospital Stephen was accommodated in housing for individuals struggling with substance abuse. He was also placed on a Drug Treatment and Testing Order (DTTO). He had to undergo regular drug testing and he also began to engage with professional support services. He took inspiration from a support worker who had turned his own life around.

    “I was drug tested, I cut off a lot of people who I had been associating with and with the help of medication I began to see this wee bit of light at the end of a dark tunnel.”

    The same worker that had inspired him to make changes in his life referred him to Venture Trust.

    Venture Trust’s programmes of personal development help people involved in the criminal justice system who recognise that they need to address their behaviours and attitudes. There is support for individuals 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. Staff work with participants in their community and also in the Scottish wilderness.

    A unique phase of the programmes is a wilderness journey in the wilds of Scotland. Outdoor activity and experiential learning techniques allow participants to make positive changes in negotiating barriers, gaining control of their life circumstances, and working towards achieving personal goals. These could be re-deploying skills learnt within the military; living independently; rebuilding broken relationships; moving towards jobs, training or volunteering; and generally working towards living a healthy, safe and stable life.

    Stephen had always loved the outdoors and adventure. It was what drew him to the Army all those years ago. “It sounded like my kind of thing.”

    He met with an Outreach Worker and they began working towards getting Stephen physically and mentally prepared for the three phase Living Wild programme - funded by The Scottish Government and also by the Armed Forces Covenant for ex-service personnel in the Scottish community justice system. This meant cutting back on medication and making the commitment to change.

    It hasn’t easy for Stephen. He has had his setbacks and a short relapse but with his determination and desire to escape “the wreckage” that had been his life for 20 years he has broken free from the grip of addiction. He is experiencing life through clear eyes and mind. With his confidence up and a desire to help others access the service Venture Trust provides, Stephen also threw himself off a bridge - with an elastic chord tied around his ankles - to raise funds for the organisation.

    “It’s great to have a life back. To not feel hopeless or like you are nothing or useless. Venture Trust has helped me to become somebody again. It’s still a daily struggle at time but I now have the skills to deal with life,” Stephen says.

    “My family all want something to do with me. I’m re-building relationships that were broken.

    “The life that I have now is brilliant compared to what it was like. I thought I was a failure and that I was going to die in that horrible existence of addiction, prison, violence and fear.”

    Watch Stephen's story below:

  • | Fundraising | News | Participant stories

    Chance to Succeed: Venture Trust awarded lottery funding

    Venture Trust has been awarded an £18,000 grant from the Scottish Children’s Lottery to support its work with young people.

    The grant from the Scottish Children’s Lottery will help fund the Inspiring Young Futures programme, which targets young people in West Lothian, Edinburgh, East Lothian, Dundee, Glasgow, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire, who are living in complex and chaotic situations.

    Through one-to-one support, the programme helps young people reflect on the changes they would like to make to their lives, and helps unlock their confidence, motivation and life skills.

    Amelia Morgan, chief executive at Venture Trust, said: “We are extremely grateful for the funding from the Scottish Children’s Lottery, which will be used to support 140 young people in Scotland.

    "The grant will allow us to reach those who are struggling with chaotic life circumstances such as homelessness, abuse, isolation, substance misuse and involvement in the criminal justice system.

    "Our experienced team of staff will assist them to gain life skills, work-readiness, a sense of purpose and to work towards making positive life changes.”

    The Scottish Children’s Lottery was launched in October 2016 to raise money for children in Scotland, with proceeds helping to improve the lives of children right across the country and make a real difference to those who need it most.

    Trustee Alan Eccles represents Chance to Succeed, which operates as a society lottery under the Scottish Children’s Lottery. Chance to Succeed supports projects that focus on employability and employment skills, helping to deliver a productive future for our young people.

    Alan Eccles said: “Chance to Succeed believes that every young person in Scotland deserves a chance to be seen, prove themselves and forge a successful career for themselves.

    "By supporting Venture Trust we hope to help deliver a productive future for our young people.

    "Thank you to those who play the Scottish Children’s Lottery; you are helping to support the great work that our charities undertake.”

    If you want to know more about what we do and who we work with at Venture Trust visit our website.

  • | News | Participant stories

    Taking Back Control of My Life: A Positive Futures Journey

    Ian is working full-time, he recently got engaged and is happy and healthy.

    But life was not always this way for the ex-serviceman.

    Less than a year ago, Ian was “trapped” in his spartan flat. Anxiety and fear had shut him away from society. He was unemployed, not part of his community, he was living an unhealthy lifestyle and he spent a lot of time alone at home.

    Ian’s struggles with PTSD, anxiety and depression were debilitating and were not allowing him to “take part in civilian life”.

    He described himself as: “Depressed, lethargic, low and apprehensive about everything.”

    Ian’s poor mental health and poor decision making eventually led to him becoming caught up in the criminal justice system and being convicted. It also led him to Venture Trust.

    As a result of his conviction, Ian was supported by a social worker from the Criminal Justice Social Work Services in Perth. His subsequent referral to Venture Trust and the Positive Futures programme allowed him to start the fight to change his future. Initially it proved to be a tough and sustained battle for both Ian and his Venture Trust outreach worker Clare.

    Positive Futures - funded by the Forces in Mind Trust – is specifically for ex-service personnel struggling with the transition to civilian life. Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), is a £35 million funding scheme run by FiMT using an endowment awarded by the Big Lottery Fund.

    During the first few appointments with his outreach worker, Ian really struggled to leave his flat due to his anxiety. It may have only been a short walk to the meeting point, but mentally it was like climbing a mountain for Ian. Gradually Ian grew more confident and was comfortable enough to meet Clare on a regular basis, further from home and in busier places.

    All of Venture Trust's programmes consist of three phases. Phase 1 involved Ian committing to regular meetings with Clare who supported him to set clear and measureable goals to work towards in the build-up to Phase 2 – the wilderness journey. The goals Ian set were “to have the knowledge that I am not the only person feeling this way”, in terms of his anxiety. He also felt he needed “a big time confidence boost” and full time employment was another goal he set his sights on for future.

    The intensive five-day wilderness journey in the highlands uses outdoor activity and experiential learning techniques, allowing participants to make positive changes in negotiating barriers, gaining control of their life circumstances, and working towards achieving personal goals. These could be re-deploying skills learnt within the military; living independently; rebuilding broken relationships; moving towards jobs, training or volunteering; and generally working towards living a healthy, safe and stable life.

    Anxiety and fear had been such a constant presence in Ian’s life and even a few days before going on his wilderness journey, they shadowed him once more. The thought of travelling on public transport on his own and meeting new people filled him with dread. However, support from Clare and Ian’s criminal justice worker helped him overcome his trepidation. It was also arranged for a fellow veteran attending the same course to join Ian on the train journey to Stirling for the start of the journey.

    Ian described his feelings ahead of the course and after the first few days:

    “I was really scared. No other word for it apart from petrified. I wasn’t sure I was going to go but I pushed myself to do this. I don’t like letting people down. Meeting the other veteran in Perth I was a bit apprehensive and cautious. I was nervous about getting the train and meeting new people at the other end. Nothing could ease the nerves. I didn’t know whether I wanted to stay. As the day went on I started to settle. I realised we were all the same with different problems in the same boat.”

    The wilderness journey is the catalyst for change for many participants and for Ian it truly was.

    “In the middle of Loch Katrine when in a canoe, the waves were coming in and the wind was in our face. We were going in all different directions instead of the way we were meant to be going. All we did was laugh. This is when I realised I was settled in to the group. I was quite head strong after this and determined to stay.”

    Ian found the experience life-changing. “The way in which they teach is incredible. Not sitting in a classroom is such a great way to learn. The support from all the staff was fantastic,” he said.

    “It’s not a boxed in area with distractions. You are out in the fresh air, challenging yourself, allowing everything to sink in. Having people to listen and there not being a time limit during the one-to-one sessions is very different to previous appointments where there is usually a time limit. Getting feedback, made me feel good. Somebody listening and asking me questions.”

    While out in the wilderness, each participant is supported to design an 'action plan' for their future, ensuring they can continue on their personal journey when they return to their community.

    Ian wasted no time starting his action plan. It began with things many people take for granted. Things Ian struggled to do before. Like take his dogs for a walk and go to the supermarket. He put to use the process of 'plan, do, and review’. This ensured the steps he was taking were positive and “not to beat himself” up if something did not go to plan. He was able to re-deploy skills that he had rediscovered and better review situations that once caused anxiety and stress. Soon Ian was a “different person”. “I feel good about myself, and I have not felt like this in a long time,” he said.

    Clare could not believe the difference in Ian in the weeks after he returned from the wilderness journey.

    “In almost five years as an outreach worker, I can honestly say that the change in Ian was the biggest I have ever witnessed. He was like a different person. He was 'on top of the clouds'. He looked happy, he was smiling, and said he is feeling ‘absolutely awesome’”.

    Soon after his return, Ian proposed to his girlfriend. He successfully applied for a full time job that he loves, and is happy and healthy.

    “I feel outgoing, happy in myself, confident, enthusiastic. I have faith in myself again. I don’t put myself down about things I cannot change. I feel good about myself and that’s the first time I have felt like that in four years.”

    For more information about the Positive Futures programme visit our website.

    Veterans involved in the Scottish community justice system can also take part in our Living Wild programme. Armed Forces Covenant is funding places especially for veterans.

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