This Friday 8th March - International Women’s Day - the world takes a moment to reflect on female role models. Radio 4’s Woman's Hour recently compiled a list of the 100 most powerful women in the UK; full of ‘movers and shakers’ including Theresa May, Elisabeth Murdoch and headed – naturally – by HM The Queen.
This International Women’s Day, Venture Trust is taking a different approach. Specialising in offering personal development support to those caught up in the criminal justice system, we're no stranger to inspirational stories from less conventional role-models. The women on our programmes have rarely had success handed to them on a plate, and their successes are sometimes less obvious than those heading companies, driving politics and running countries.
However, chatting to the women who've taken part in our programmes, it doesn't take long to find empowerment, encouragement and inspiration.
This International Women's Day, we'll be celebrating women like these:
"VT helped me so much before I went up there I was a mess now I am engaged and have a place of my own and I have the skills to hold down a job. Witch without your help I don’t think I would be here today" - Mary
"Because of VT I've been able to gain the confidence to take control of my life. I have stopped making excuses and i start collage on the 3rd of September. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the experiences met loads of new people and gained all sorts of skills" - Debbie
"First 3 days were hard, first 4 days I stropped, last 3 days never stropped once, and safe to say iv only stropped once since being back home hehe! thanks to everyone, not just staff! yous (we) were all amazing!" - Shawnie
"I want to pass my computer course, and I want to open my own fast food van. And I want to stay out of trouble – that’s a biggie. And I’m not doing bad, I’m coming on three years [without getting into trouble], and I just want to enjoy my life. My attitude’s changed, I’m not as aggressive, I walk away from situations that would have got me into trouble before. And I try to think that, if I do get myself into a situation, it’s just better to walk away, which is what I’ve been doing. Trying to stay focussed, mentally and physically, and just improve my quality of life, eh" - Sally
Huge congratulations to all the women who've taken part in our programmes: you're our inspiration this International Women's Day.
Venture Trust's social enterprise has been shortlisted for the Local Business Accelerators competition run by the Edinburgh Evening News and Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.
Up against a shortlist of five local businesses, we enter the den in the New Year for an opportunity to win free advertising and a chance to be mentored by TV 'dragon' Deborah Meaden.
Our commercially minded social enterprise, V T Enterprises Ltd operates a hostel and adventurous outdoor activities in the beautiful, wild and remote community of Applecross, Wester Ross coupled with individual and team training and development across Scotland. As part of the Venture Trust family, we’re backed by 30 years of experience and expertise in experiential learning and a talented staff team delivering wilderness-based personal development programmes to inspire, support and encourage people to achieve more positive futures.
Amelia Morgan, who heads up the social enterprise commented, "we're delighted to make the shortlist... this is an enormous boost for our social business in terms of profile and potential growth. We're excited about the prospect of presenting to the panel."
You can read the article on the Edinburgh Evening News website.
A report published today highlights the importance of additional support for children in care, to enable them to improve their prospects, aspire to positive and successful adulthoods, and avoid negative pathways of offending and disengagement.
The Inspectorate of Probation, along with education watchdogs Ofsted and Estyn - which inspects standards in education and training in Wales - examined the cases of 60 children who required supervision in order to stop them from committing crimes.
Inspectors said one of the "most disappointing" findings was the lack of thought given to the emotional impact on children of being in care and, a lack of appreciation of the extra support needed for them to address their problems. The report describes youth offending team workers' aspirations for the children as "depressingly low", and highlights that young people in care "rarely have anybody who stays as a kind of consistent adult".
The director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon added "There is a well-trodden path from care into custody".
Venture Trust's direct experience of supporting young people who have been in care - though our specifically designed 'Inspiring Young Futures' programme, backs up these findings. One of our participants recently told us about her experience of being in care, and its connection to her life taking a negative pathway:
When I was a teenager, I think that’s when my troubles began. I was living in children’s units. People think that kids in the care system will never make anything of themselves – they think they must be bad people. I just thought aggression and drugs was normal – you don’t have anyone to turn to and you don’t see your family much. I was taking drugs, self harming.... all kinds of things. No-one helped me.
But Venture Trust's personal development support - via long term outreach support and intensive wilderness journeys - can help these young people to transform their futures:
I got lots of one-to-one support, and spent all my time outdoors. I was enjoying what I was doing and starting to achieve something with my life. People were noticing what I was doing well; I could do something positive and get noticed for it, where in the past I’d have to get into trouble to get noticed. I started to change; I realised there was more to life than taking drugs, and that I could use my experiences to help other people.
We provide long term, personalised support for what today's report describes as "the most vulnerable children". With our help, we're able to help young people to envisage a more positive future for themselves, and to develop the skills they need to make their ambitions reality. Last year, we supported over 500 young people with experience of being in care. Three quarters of looked-after young people on our Inspiring Young Futures programme maintained or made better use of services and opportunities in their communities, and seven in ten were more employable.
Perhaps as the ultimate proof of our sucess, our 'graduates' are able to support other young people to help them make more positive choices in life:
"I realised I can show my experience to other people and help them to change their lives like I changed mine. I can give other people support and help them to make a difference. I’ve done it all – I think I’ve done more in 17 years than most people have in a lifetime – and I can say to people ‘you don’t need to do that’. Most people who get through the care system end up taking drugs or going to prison. If I can show people the other options, the other route they can take, then they can choose to take that path too".
You can read more about the report on the BBC website, and find out more about Venture Trust's Inspiring Young Futures programme - specifically designed to meet the needs of young people who have been in care - on our website.
A project to help Scots women battling substance misuse and offending has received a major boost after being handed nearly £100,000 by Comic Relief - the Herald reports. The article goes on:
Almost 100 women – 32 for each of the next three years – will be able to participate in the Next Steps programme run by Edinburgh-based Venture Trust thanks to the grant of £95,423.
The three-phase initiative works in partnership with a number of criminal justice teams and voluntary groups to select and prepare women for the course. The charity then takes them to its residential centre in Applecross in the Highlands, where they are faced with a series of rigorous outdoor and personal challenges.
In the final phase, the charity links up again with its external partners to help the women transfer what they have learned to their home lives, supporting them while they look for work or training opportunities or end violent relationships.
This type of initiative is likely to become more common as its approach reflects many of the key recommendations in Dame Elish Angiolini's Commission on Women Offenders, published in April, in particular the need to address the underlying problems such as addiction, domestic abuse and poor mental health that lead some women to turn to petty crime.
Sixty women aged between 16 and 57 have completed Next Steps, which was launched by Venture Trust in 2010 and given financial support by Comic Relief for a pilot. The charity said 83% of the women who completed the programme turned their lives around.
Mark Bibbey, Venture Trust chief executive, said: "We are extremely grateful to Comic Relief for this generous grant. Their support for our Next Steps programme is a fantastic endorsement of the timely and effective nature of our work with women involved in offending."
Joe Connelly, head of programmes at the Venture Trust, said the physical challenges from being outdoors in a wilderness setting were key to the project's success.
"People get the opportunity to take off their usual masks by being in a totally different environment," he told The Herald in an interview for Society earlier this year. "We're able to tap into the potential of who they can be rather than who they think they are – especially if they've been labelled as offenders or drug addicts or alcoholics.
"There's an immediacy about the wilderness and about the activities the women do."
You can read the full article over on the Herald's website.
Yesterday saw the publication of Audit Scotland's report on reducing reoffending in Scotland. The Scottish Government estimates that reoffending costs Scotland £3 billion a year, and the report highlights a 'mismatch between what is delivered, and what works'.
The report strongly advocates for the approach taken by Venture Trust's programmes, particularly Living Wild: Chance for Change and our work designed specifically for those involved in offending. The report sets out the following points on 'what works' for reducing reoffending:
There is strong evidence on what works to reduce reoffending. This includes:
- Helping offenders find jobs, improving relationships with their families and communities, and managing their lives
- Relationships between support workers and offenders based on respect and trust; being flexible and non-judgemental; and relationships being maintained when offenders leave prison
- Tailoring approaches to offenders and their individual needs.
Our Living Wild programme champions this sort of holistic, individually-tailored approach, which puts relationships at the heart of each participant's progression. And we know that this approach works.
Almost 9 out of 10 participants on our Living Wild programme show increased self-confidence, and a similar proportion are more employable after their time with us. Almost two thirds show behaviours and circumstances likely to reduce risks of reconviction.
We're proud to be championing this sort of effective approach to reducing reoffending in Scotland, and naturally support the report's recommendations that resources should be targeted towards those interventions that work.
The key messages document of the Audit Scotland report can be downloaded here.