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BOTHY BOOK BLOG: Luck shouldn’t be a feature in turning chaotic lives around – Linda Smith

Posted on 28 October 2021

A bothy is a place waymarked on a map for individuals who have a common goal – spending time in the outdoors – to come together for shelter, warmth or to recuperate. When we have navigated the trails and reach the bothy, we know we will find a place to meet our needs.  

Is this the same for navigating the support services within the criminal justice system or in fact other support systems?    

In my experience as a service user, the map to finding the right support at the right time was unclear, it was with a degree of luck that in the end I did reach my ‘bothy’.    

I started to find my way back to my version of normality when I met with Venture Trust in the summer of 2019. I signed up to their Positive Futures course, designed for veterans struggling with transition to civilian life or have been involved in the criminal justice system. My experiences during the course were many and varied. Initially there was intensive community-based support before setting out on an outdoor personal development journey. This involved setting up camp, helping with cooking, doing morning yoga warm-ups, team-work exercises, canoeing and wild swimming to name but a few of them! 

It was invigorating, both physically and mentally. The sheer space and openness of the outdoors gave a sense of freedom and hope. The joy of laughing with others without restraint and yet being able to sit around a fire and talk openly about the tough times was balm to my soul. I came back determined to create some stability in my life, but to suit me not others. 

However, my path to engaging with Venture Trust wasn’t quite so straightforward. Not through any lack of effort from all the agencies who were helping me, but probably because of the element of chance that was involved.  

I was attending a service run by South Lanarkshire Council called the Women’s Hub. During one of these meetings, Venture Trust staff happened to be delivering a short presentation about the work they do. I was immediately interested and put my name forward. This was the first time I had heard of Venture Trust, what if I hadn’t attended the meeting that week? What if Venture Trust had visited another venue that day?  

These incidents highlighted for me, and the support workers involved that some resources are subject to ‘luck’. Right place, right time, right people, right questions.  

How do we ensure that valuable and life-changing help isn’t available based on your ‘Donald Duck’? 

I guess the issue is with availability of current information about services, and then about how it is disseminated accurately and in a timely manner. No point throwing a handful of ‘darts’ and hoping they hit the target. Then again there is responsibility – is the onus on the provider or the referrer to know what is available?  

There are service directories across Local Authorities. But are they consistent, updated, shared, and easily found? Do all Local Authorities have such a directory? Do the different support services share enough information between themselves to match an individual with a service that best meets their needs? Could there be a central body that takes responsibility for creating a live directory of services, locally and nationally? This in turn would ensure there are standards created in the supply of the data – accuracy, relevance, suitability, legislation, security to name but a few. Standard questionnaires for all service users – commonality in terminology and the ability to share.  

Nothing is more distressing for someone in crisis than having to explain their situation or tell their story over and over – it leads to people backing away from assistance 

Luck is a good thing, we all deserve some, but it really shouldn’t be a feature in turning chaotic lives around. When we reach the bothy waymarked on a map, we should know we will find what we are looking for.    

Do you have any thoughts on Linda’s call for a more joined-up approach to accessing services? Get in touch or find out more about Venture Trust’s work.  

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Smith is a former Venture Trust participant. She is now a Justice Support Worker for South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership, Criminal Justice Services.  

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