Transitions to Independent Living
Wilderness journey: December 2015
The weather on our latest wilderness expedition added a festive theme to the journey and provided participants with some additional challenges…
The participants were taking part in Venture Trust’s Transitions to Independent Living programme, which is designed for those living in temporary supported accommodation, unstable tenancies or considered at risk of homelessness. The course helps participants to develop their confidence, relationships, employability and other skills necessary to secure and sustain permanent accommodation.
Six of the participants came from the slightly warmer climes of London and the surrounding area, and arrived with energy and excitement, despite delays on their 6-hour train journey. On arrival, they met the other participants at our Stirling base who came from Aberdeen and the group soon bonded during a meal - fish and chips in Pitlochry.
At Kinloch Rannoch Outdoor Centre the group created a great buzz and supportive culture. There was a positive energy as many of the participants stepped out of their comfort zones to challenge themselves, taking part in activities including climbing and abseiling.
The group set out from the centre ready for their expedition with the weather dry but cold. It wasn't long before the weather started to deteriorate but they were able to set up camp, cook dinner on their Trangia stoves and settle in for the night under canvas in the Scottish wilderness.
When they awoke and peered out of their tents the group faced a different type of challenge - heavy snow. Some of the participants described it as a "winter wonderland" or something from Disney's 'Frozen', however, on assessment, the Venture Trust team decided the challenges presented by the snow were too great so the decision was made to retreat back to the outdoor centre.
The change in plans provided an unexpected real-life scenario on which to demonstrate one of the cornerstones of Venture Trust's approach - Choice Theory/Reality Therapy. This framework helps participants to distinguish between what they can and cannot control, and to try to control only the controllable. Everyone dealt well with the change to the expedition and with the snow remaining constant over the next few days it certainly proved to be the right decision.
At the centre, the group continued to enjoy the experience and challenges of communal living. Being snowed in, alternative group activities were arranged and these included a Come Dine with Me competition which turned out to be very competitive - with some honest feedback and scoring. The group also got back outside to go on a forestry walk with lots of learning around the theme of 'Self, others and the environment' along with a few snow ball fights to keep everyone going.
When the weather had improved enough, the group were taken out for their biggest challenge - ‘mountain day’ on Schiehallion, one of Scotland’s best known Munros. The group walked part of the way up this classic Munro, with some making it higher than others, but with levels of commitment high for all. Each participant exceeded their own expectations, contending with tricky conditions and snow drifts up to their knees. Later in the day they also took part in role play exercises focussing on 'triggers' and how to control behaviour to gain positive consequences.
The last day of the course focused on participant's ‘Quality World’ (what they want out of life) and the strategies that they can use to get there. With support from their 1-1 field team member, they also completed an action plan outlining their goals and ambitions for the coming days, weeks and months.
On all of Venture Trust’s wilderness journeys, the weather may significantly influence how the course will evolve. This Transitions journey was no different, being full of changes due to the snow. However, the group adapted well to these and were able to press on and overcome the challenges presented to them. This will serve them well as they continue their personal journeys.
Merry Christmas and good luck in the future to all the participants from the field team - Sally, John, Polly, Gregor and Stu.
See yourself differently.
More information on our Transitions to Independent Living programme can be found here. This course would not be possible without the support of our funders. A big thanks to Dulverton Trust, Scottish Government Housing Voluntary Sector Grant Scheme, Simon Gibson Charitable Trust and the Mackintosh Foundation.
On Friday 31st July we celebrated the achievements of 23 Venture Trust participants who completed the Build a Bike programme.
Four, week-long, courses supported by the Department for Work and Pensions via Job Centre Plus were run in partnership with The Bike Station - Edinburgh. Participants received support to build their confidence, motivation and employability while learning valuable hands-on vocational training in bike construction in a workshop environment. At the end of the course participants were given the chance to keep the bike they had built and also shown how to cycle safely and efficiently both in the city and off-road.
All the participants were referred to Venture Trust after a prolonged period of unemployment, with the aim of giving them a chance to learn a new set of practical skills as well as finding out more about bikes and cycling, in a supportive group environment. Venture Trust Outreach Workers have been on hand every step of the way providing one-to-one support to participants to enable them to take their next steps into volunteering, training, work placements and employment.
There have been a number of notable successes and inspiring stories of the tangible difference this course has made to participants’ lives, with demand for the courses and the positive outcomes far exceeding our targets for this pilot project.
“I took part in Venture Trust's Build a Bike scheme after a long period of unemployment. I was able to learn new skills in a calm and supportive environment, and it helped my confidence knowing I could learn new things and work well with others.”
Angus joined the course after being unemployed for over a year and when we first met him, his morale was very low. The Build a Bike programme really improved his confidence and, with the support of his Venture Trust Outreach Worker, he successfully applied for and completed a placement with one of our corporate partners. Since completing the placement he has secured full-time employment as a Systems Operator.
“Venture Trust……supported me through a successful interview for a voluntary placement. The placement was enjoyable and interesting, and subsequently I gained paid employment. At that interview I was able to use the placement to demonstrate my ability to work and it gave me the belief to know I could do the job. Venture Trust made a great difference in my life, and its staff gave me a lot of friendly support and feedback while looking for work.”
As well as gaining confidence and learning a new set of skills, participants have discovered how to make the most of their local environment using their bikes, both in the city and off-road. For many, this is already helping them to make cycling a part of their everyday lives, they tell us that they are more active now and that they are using their bikes to access training and employment opportunities. Developing a new interest for themselves (and their families), plus realising the sense of freedom of having their own transport is also some of the fantastic feedback we received at the event.
The Bike Station has also generously donated a bicycle computer to each participant, to track how much mileage they clock up during the next six months and to give them hints and tips about their cycling.
Thanks again to our partners at The Bike Station and Job Centre Plus and also to Sainsbury’s Quartermile for providing refreshments for the event. We are so pleased with the success of this innovative programme and wish all our Build a Bike graduates every success for the future!
At a recent event at the Scottish Parliament hosted by Kenny MacAskill MSP, five young people, including two former Venture Trust participants, were invited to speak about their experience of the criminal justice system alongside experts and academics in the field.
The event was organised by the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ), the Scottish Consortium for Crime and Criminal Justice (SCCCJ) and Venture Trust following the publication of a special edition of Scottish Justice Matters entitled “Living it: children, young people and justice”. Ministers, MSPs, practitioners and young people were all in attendance to hear directly from the young people featured in the publication.
During her presentation, Susie commented on the impact Venture Trust had in turning her life around:
“The sheriff put me on a course with Venture Trust, this made absolutely the difference in my life, it was the right help at the right time. Which is what I needed all along.
[After] the Venture Trust course, I came back and I was motivated and I had everything, an action plan; I had the tools for life; I had everything that I needed to get on with life and ever since then hand on heart I can say that my life has gotten so much better. I’m working, I’ve worked for the police and young offenders and prison services.vated and I had everything, an action plan;
From all the bad stuff that happened in my life I try and make something good come from it and that’s about all I can do.
Individuals in this room have a responsibility to our young people in Scotland to give them a better chance. I don’t want to be standing here in another ten years’ time and there’s more young people with the same story that would just be pointless.”
Brian, another former Venture Trust participant also reflected on his experiences and the huge change which has occurred in his life as a result of the programme:
“My experience in the past wasn’t good, growing up, I never had a father-figure in my life. The day it’s different, the day I’m at college. I work part day with social work to help homeless people, it’s an amazing cause to be part of. I love life but it wasn’t always like that for me, it’s only because of the support I got from the Venture Trust.”
The ‘Living It’ feature was edited by Claire Lightowler from CYCJ along with the two former Venture Trust participants and together they were able to ensure that other young people had genuine opportunities to make their voices heard. As editors, they guided and shaped the publication, and subsequently engaged with the wider Criminal Justice Voluntary Sector Forum to facilitate the participation of a wide range of young people who have had different experiences at the sharp end of the justice system.
The team have explored issues which came to the fore, such as ‘kids with family members in custody, the impact of traumatic events in young lives, experiences of supervision and the intricacies of gaining employment with an offending history. They have also sought to highlight the importance of being positive about young people and how positive professionals can help make a difference.
Two Venture Trust participants from Edinburgh have recently benefited from work experience opportunities with local tourism businesses. They both achieved a great deal including updating their CVs, growing in confidence and gaining an insight into the world of work. This collaboration demonstrates the potential for young people developing their skills supported by business.
Working in partnership, Scottish Business in the Community, Venture Trust and local business volunteers have supported young people over the last few months with help in CV writing, interview skills and being prepared for work. For many Venture Trust participants this is the start of a journey towards getting a job and in taking part in workshops with business volunteers has supported new insights and learning including breaking down barriers.
We are delighted to be working with SBC and business volunteers. This builds on Venture Trust’s focus to help young people to develop core skills for life, learning and work. To find out more about some our work please see our earlier feature in the Scotsman here or visit the programmes section of our website.
You can read the whole story by Hilary Robb, SBC's Hubs Manager East on the Scotsman's website.
Network Rail and registered charity Venture Trust are working in partnership to help individuals get their lives back on track. The partnership is already having a major impact on the lives of some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged people – leaving a lasting legacy in families and communities across Scotland. With lots more planned, here’s where it all started. This is Martin’s story:
Martin (not his real name) was referred to Venture Trust in March 2014, and it was immediately clear that his relationship with his young son was the most significant motivation for him in his life. At that point, he had sporadic contact with him, with the added difficulty of potential conflict with the child’s mother, after they had split a year earlier when his son was a few months old. Martin was spending a lot of his money on gambling, as well as spending many days at the pub or at home smoking cannabis, and admitted to difficulties managing his anger and frustration. This resulted in offending behaviours, for which he was sentenced to a Community Payback Order. Since then little had changed for Martin, other than that he began sleeping on the sofa at his father’s house, and he saw his son even less.
Martin had asked his Criminal Justice Social Worker to refer him to Venture Trust, as he had heard from a few friends that it had helped them to ‘sort their heads out’. He said that they appeared much more confident and clearer about what they wanted to do with their lives, and he said that one of them now had a job after getting put forward for a work placement through Venture Trust.
During Phase 1 of the Venture Trust “Living Wild” programme (which is part-funded by The Scottish Government, Comic Relief and several UK trusts & foundations), Martin’s focus was on reducing his alcohol and cannabis use in preparation for the toughest part of the Venture Trust programme – a 10-day personal development “coreskills” course all in Scotland’s dramatic wilderness. His Venture Trust Outreach worker supported him to set clear and measureable goals to work towards week by week in the build-up to his personal development journey.
New ideas and new skills – the wilderness journey:
By the time he started Phase 2 of the Venture Trust programme in April, Martin had worked out exactly what he wanted to achieve. He wanted to learn to control his drug and alcohol use; to stop gambling; and to learn to negotiate differences in order to better communicate with the mother of his child. He thought that if he developed his thinking skills to the point that he was able to achieve these goals, then perhaps the future could be different for him, and that maybe he could even think about having his own tenancy and start looking for work.
The wilderness journey lasted 10 days, starting with Martin self-travelling to Stirling by train, where he met a group of other young people in similar situations. Together, the group collectively committed to a “social contract” of behaviour to create a safe learning environment for all involved. Basecamp was established to the west of Fort William, from where the group climbed and abseiled in Glen Nevis, canoed for 3 days down Loch Sheil and trekked over 50 miles of mountainous terrain from Glenfinnan to Kinloch Rannoch. During those ten days, Martin worked with the group on problem solving techniques, explored positive and negative habits, choosing effective behaviours, and identified how to recognise and overcome the ‘triggers’ that made him react negatively in challenging situations at home. Martin developed his ability to review and evaluate the strategies that he was using, getting better at thinking through actions and consequences in different situations.
In the wilderness Martin thrived. He learned that through thinking differently he could do things differently and be the person that he wanted to be. He developed strategies to maintain his motivation when in the past he would have thrown in the towel when things got tough. This was particularly evident on the group’s hill day in Glen Nevis – the ascent was challenging for all the participants, but Martin showed determination in order to reach the summit, accepting advice from staff members and reflecting afterwards on his own sense of achievement by seeing it through.
Martin also demonstrated his ability to communicate and negotiate differences with fellow participants whilst in the wilderness. His dedicated field team member even noted that “(Martin) built strong relationships with his peers. He took the safe space of the course seriously and worked to support the others.” On day four, Martin made huge efforts to assist another participant, who was struggling with the course, to keep going. He also managed to avoid negative behaviour that was being displayed by some of the other participants – such as staying up after lights-out – and negotiated potential conflicts in the group dynamic. All of these actions showed the matured intentions of an individual committed to change. Martin went home with a detailed Action Plan, using his newfound confidence and skills to make the changes that he wanted.
Moving forward – with Network Rail’s help
During his first meeting back home with his Venture Trust Outreach Worker, Martin explained that in the wilderness he did the most difficult things he had ever done, but by taking things step-by-step and asking for support, he could succeed even when they had not initially gone to plan. In the past, he would refuse any form of support and often just give up on tasks. He said “No matter what happens there is always a choice, always something that you can do”. He also stated that for the first time since he was about 10 years old he spent 10 days without using any drugs or alcohol: “I now realise that I use that stuff to deal with problems and I don’t need it. If I have got a problem then I need to make a plan and then get off my arse and solve it”.
Following Martin’s wilderness course, he significantly reduced his alcohol and cannabis use, and started visiting his son each weekend: “I used to think it was all my ex-bird’s fault and that she needed to change, but since I’ve been away with Venture Trust I’ve learned that she is actually alright, and since I’ve been different she has been really sound about things. I get to see my wee boy every week now and she has said that I can maybe have him round to stay if I get my own tenancy”. The great news is that a few months later he managed to secure his own tenancy, adding further independence and stability to his life.
Venture Trust has recently been working in partnership with Network Rail to offer employability opportunities and pathways into jobs in the Network Rail industry. Martin was one of the first to take on the challenge – using his outreach worker as a sounding board he completed an application, took part in a full interview process and successfully secured a 6 week work placement as part of the cleaning team at Edinburgh’s Waverly station. The placement was demanding and varied, requiring early starts to commute from East Lothian, and working hard in the Station’s new marketplace to set up stalls, assist stall holders and promote their wares. Martin made a big impression:
“Martin has been involved with all aspects, from the setting up of the market, supporting traders arriving with their products, helping to bring products into the market, checking cabling to the stalls, setting up of the cafe area, flyering, stall holder assistance, and this all before elevenses :o) he turns up early and then we have to literally tell him to stop working as otherwise he would be with us until way over his allotted time!” (Tania, Waverly Market Manager)
“Martin has made some particularly strong and positive impressions on us both. He has consistently turned up for work an hour earlier than his start time of 0800hrs, and remained longer than the 1400hrs we envisaged. Martin was able to work very confidently on the Market set up, and was a great help to Tania and her traders. It was also great to appreciate first-hand how Martin’s confidence and communication skills, in particular, had already greatly improved, and I was delighted to receive an application form from him to work as part of our cleaning contractor team, Interserve, which I’ve forwarded to their Site Manager for his consideration.” (Juliet, Waverley Station Manager)
Having successfully completed the voluntary placement before Christmas, and fully adhered to Network Rail's zero tolerance policy on alcohol and drugs, he has since been offered a permanent part-time position with one of Network Rail’s subcontractors at Waverley Station. His employers have also assured him that he can change to full-time hours once he has completed his college course in railway engineering at Edinburgh College which he began after being inspired by his initial placement.
Martin asked us to mention that he is extremely grateful for all the support he has received over more than a year from Venture Trust and the Network Rail "family" of agencies. Station Manager Juliet and Market Manager Tania played a huge role in helping Martin thrive in the placement, whilst Dave Boyce from the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Project (EGIP) team played a vital role in obtaining the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) without which the placement could not have gone ahead.
Martin’s achievements are testament to the strong partnership working that Venture Trust and the Network Rail family have set up to help disadvantaged young people and adults enhance their confidence, their motivation and their employability skills. But most of all, they are testament to all the hard work, commitment and talents that Martin has unlocked to get his life “On track”.
Thank you to our key funding partners, including:
For a full list of our funding partners please click here.