Soldiering On

Soldiering On Awards: People's Choice Finalist Venture Trust - Positive Futures

The Venture Trust's Positive Futures programme supports ex-service personnel who are struggling with the transition to civilian life...

The Soldiering On Awards have announced that voting is now officially underway for the People's Choice Award, recognising the achievements of those who have served their country and the diverse people and groups who work together in support of the Armed Forces community.

We've taken a look at the fantastic work undertaken by each of the finalists - amongst which is the Venture Trust's - Positive Futures programme.

Malcolm Jack, head of funding and contracts at the charity, told us how it identifies and then goes on to help people after they leave the services:

In partnership with more than 29 partners including military charities and organisations, it supports ex-service personnel who are struggling with the transition to civilian life.

Positive Futures forms part of a programme of personal development that helps participants to develop the life skills to see things differently and make positive changes.

They are connected with an outreach worker who supports them to define their goals and ambitions, stabilise their lives and identify the choices, actions or behaviours that are holding them back.

They then embark on a "wilderness journey", designed to provide time and space away from existing surroundings, which uses the outdoors as a catalyst for positive change, redeploying skills learnt within the military to be utilised in civilian life.

At the end of the journey, each participant is supported to create a personal action plan, outlining their specific goals for the coming days, weeks and months.

The programme helps participants to negotiate barriers, gain some control of the situations that they might find themselves in, and to work towards achieving their personal goals.

These could be applying skills learnt within the military; finding a home, rebuilding broken relationships; working towards living a healthy, safe and stable life; retraining or applying for a job; or utilising their skills through volunteering.

Mr Jack says the charity helps ex-forces members who slip through the cracks:

"The express aim of the charity is to help veterans who are struggling with quite complicated and entrenched difficulties who are really struggling to transition back into civilian life... about 50% of the people we deal with have a criminal record and around 30% have experienced some form of homelessness."

Back in their community, the outreach worker continues providing one-to-one support to help apply what has been learnt, overcome barriers and move forward positively.

Partner agencies include Veterans First Point, Scottish Veterans Residences, SAMH, social work teams and Glasgow's Helping Heroes.

Mark, a former Royal Navy submariner, left the service in 2013 and while initially throwing himself into making a new life, he soon found the demands of his new life overwhelming.

In 2016 he was diagnosed with depression, which eventually resulted in him leaving his job.

He had a fractious dispute with neighbours that led to intervention with authorities and was subsequently referred to Venture Trust in July 2016.

Since joining the Positives Futures programme he has also connected with Veteran's 1st Point, Step Together and enrolled on a SAAFA Lifeworks employability course.

On completion of the wilderness journey he undertook further 'Speak Up' employability training and was one of three ex-service personnel selected for a paid six-month traineeship at Venture Trust. The traineeship finished at the end of September, at which point Mark said:

"As a veteran who was struggling to cope with certain things in life I found the programme gave me great support.

"I had a brilliant wilderness experience and learned a lot about myself.

"I have been able to build on the experience and I now have a much stronger belief in myself. My confidence has grown and I depart with self-belief and positive anticipation."

The programme has been running for two years and 115 ex-service personnel have benefitted from the support, with monitoring showing a marked improvement in confidence (81%), employability (80%), stability (67%), relationships (49%) and access to local services (56%).

The People's Choice Award, sponsored by Forces Network, is being selected by public vote before the winner is announced at a black-tie ceremony on April 20.

Members of the public have until midnight on March 12 to give a huge boost of morale to people who deserve all the support we can give them in their dedication to the Armed Forces community - through one easy click on a voting website.