Women from Venture Trust’s Next Steps programme have shared their inspirational achievements at a special event held at the Hilton Edinburgh on November 21.
The event attended by stakeholders, funders, business leaders also saw the release of an independent study of the programme.
Dr Shelia Inglis, of SMCI Associates, presented her research findings on the wider impact of the Next Steps programme. In particular, how Venture Trust is unlocking the potential of these women, building their confidence, enabling them to rebuild relationships, improving their chance to move into work, and contribute positively in their communities.
Next Steps supports women from across Scotland, whose chaotic and disadvantaged backgrounds have led to their involvement in offending or put them at high risk of re/offending.
Participants are met and supported by outreach teams in their communities before experiencing an intensive five day wilderness journey, which is then followed by ongoing community-based support from Venture Trust and other partners.
Several incredible women shared their inspiring stories of overcoming adversity. Many of them have arrived at Venture Trust from a place of vulnerability and instability, often struggling with a multitude of issues such as homelessness, addiction, isolation and involvement in the criminal justice system. The Next Steps programme utilises the outdoors as a mechanism for personal development, providing space and a safe environment to begin the road to positive change.
The programme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, as well as a number of trusts and foundations, included the opportunity to continually evaluate and fine tune the work being done, and this event was the ideal place to share those findings. Last year, 387 females took part in Next Steps, an increase of 23 per cent from the previous year, with referrals from over 100 different organisations across Scotland. 83 per cent of women participating in the Next Steps programme are more likely to get a job, with 143 already in employment, volunteering, training, or education. And 75 per cent are less likely to re-offend, which has an impact on taxpayers, and an impact on the overloaded prison service; that is great news.
Annabelle McPherson, who has overcome alcohol addiction, said the programme had changed her life. “I had hit total rock bottom when I engaged with Venture Trust but it was the right time for me to start looking up. It was about pushing yourself, you start to believe in yourself.”
Fellow participant Kirsty Gallon also believed the Next Steps programme had turned her life around after getting caught up in the criminal justice system. “I was at the lowest point I could possibly be in ... I couldn’t see the other end,” she said. However on the night of the event, Kirsty revealed, “five weeks today I’ve been in full time employment.”
Newly announced Venture Trust ambassador, and female endurance mountain biker Lee Craigie also spoke about her adventures as an elite athlete and her own battles with the challenges and lows she has overcame.
"Listening to the women who've been through the Venture Trust Next Steps programme I was struck by the amount of bravery and resilience required to turn their lives around. Not unlike the qualities required to ride long distances by bike. We all suffer the lows but what we all agreed was it is that it's easier to dig ourselves out of feeling low if we're surrounded by supportive people. This programme offers the opportunity and, in my opinion, there's not enough of these programmes about,” Lee said.
Venture Trust chief executive officer Amelia Morgan, commented, “Tonight was about celebrating the amazing women on our Next Steps programme, and all their potential and achievements. We heard from some of the women who have courageously committed to turning their lives around. Every story reflects a very personal journey of change, with all the pitfalls and small gains of life. We have also demonstrated the impact that the Next Steps programme has on these vulnerable women, their families and the community around them. The programme plays an important role within the criminal justice system and we are very proud of the women we have supported.”
Venture Trust’s Next Steps programme for women has been featured in The Scotsman on Thursday, November 2nd
The article highlights the impacts of the programme and how Venture Trust is making a difference to the lives of women caught up in the criminal justice system.
It also explains the challenges community justice and other statutory and third sector partners have in guiding women caught up in the criminal justice system to turn their life around.
"The programme is breaking the cycle of reoffending. During the last five years women on the programme have succeed in making and sustaining positive changes in their lives; with 86 per cent of participants showed increased self-confidence; 83 per cent improved their employability skill; 65 per cent showed behaviours and circumstances likely to reduce risks of reconviction; 50 per cent improved their relationships with those around them, and were making increased use of services and opportunities in their community such as libraries, gyms or doctors’ surgeries."
Despite the challenges to reach women in the justice system, the Next Steps programme has operated at increased scale to reach greater numbers of vulnerable women. Last year, 387 females with a history of offending took part in the programme, an increase of 23 per cent with referrals from over 100 different organisations across Scotland.
The article comes ahead of the Next Steps - Moving out of the Past towards the Positive event being held on November 21.
Business leaders have been invited to celebrate the achievements of the women involved in the Next Steps programme and the wider impact of the programme. In particular, how Venture Trust is unlocking their potential, enabling them to rebuild relationships, move on to work, and contribute positively in their communities.
Dr Sheila Inglis, Director of SMCI Associates will share the findings of an independent programme evaluation. Evidence will be presented of what works to support women in moving away from offending towards more productive, healthier and happier lives.
You can read the full article on The Scotsman website.