Participant stories

  • | News | Participant stories

    Scottish Veterans Minister meets military veterans making positive changes

    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/

  • | News | Participant stories

    Call of the wild making a difference for ex-Service personnel struggling with civilian life

    A programme for Veterans – centred on the Scottish wilderness –has made significant improvement to participants’ lives while also being cost-effective and high value for money, new research has highlighted. 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.

    Venture Trust’s 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.

    Positive Futures has been independently evaluated by GAP Communications for the past three years. During that time Venture Trust has supported 90 veterans and the programme has the potential to support hundreds more in the coming years.

    Some of the key research findings from GAP Communications’ evaluation include:

    • 0% of ex-Service personnel who participated in Positive Futures have re-offended following the programme.
    • 43% of participants have since entered into employment, education or training.
    • Over a third (34%) of participants who were homeless or in insecure accommodation are now sustaining their own tenancy.
    • Improved mental health for participants has led to more openness with family members and calmer, happier households.
    • The overall benefit impact to society through a) reduction in interactions with state services (reduced costs) and b) moving into the workplace (tax gains) or volunteering is calculated to be over £2m. The average benefit impact is over £45k per person.
    • 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.
    • The model, if replicated, would work with veterans needing support in other parts of the UK.

    Referrers have said the service appeals to ex-servicemen and women who refuse to engage with therapeutic programmes but who will engage with an outdoors programme.

    Positive Futures was funded by a grant of £689,453 from the Forces in Mind Trust. 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.

    Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The funding for the Positive Futures programme is the largest grant awarded to date by the Forces in Mind Trust. The measure of its success will be the lasting change that it brings to those who undergo the experience.

    “The Report provides evidence of a model that can be used to help some of the most challenged ex-Service personnel make a successful and sustainable transition into civilian life. This proven effective model should be expanded so that every ex-Service man and woman across the United Kingdom who needs it, can easily access and gain benefit from it.”

    Venture Trust chief executive Amelia Morgan said: “We are delighted to share the findings of the Positive Futures programme and its impact for ex-servicemen and women who may have struggled in civilian life. This work represents three years of collaboration to reach those individuals in need and a shared goal of sustained positive change to ensure a civilian life which is fuller, with improved wellbeing and a renewed sense of purpose. We hope that the proof of concept that is Positive Futures and the research findings offer fresh insight and recommendations to enhance support for individuals who struggle with transition. We are hugely grateful to FiMT, the Armed Forces Covenant, partners in Scotland and particularly the ex-service men and women who took part in the programme.”

    The report also contains some recommendations for the Veterans’ support sector:

    • Sustain and replicate the methodology of the programme through continued investment and effective marketing to ex-Service personnel and also their families.
    • Find ‘hidden veterans’ through the collection and sharing of data between services and develop more rigorous enquiries regarding Armed Forces history.
    • Higher levels of inter-agency co-operation and partnership across the military and non-military services’ sectors.
    • The Armed Forces look at introducing, based on the markers identified in the research, a mechanism to identify, and monitor those at risk of poor transition from point of application and throughout an individual’s career.

    You can read the full report here.

    Or the impact brief here.

    For more information about Venture Trust's work with ex-Service personal visit our Positive Futures programme.

    For more infprmation about the Forces in Mind Trust visit: www.fim-trust.org

  • | 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: www.venturetrust.org.uk

  • | 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

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