Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, Ray Lock, and Assistant Head of Policy, Sam Freston, joined a group of veterans on a Scottish wilderness journey as part of the Venture Trust’s Positive Futures project helping people struggling to transition into civilian life…

Venture Trust is an Edinburgh-based charity that helps people with disadvantaged or challenging backgrounds get back on their feet. It does this through life skills development support, including intensive wilderness expeditions, with the aim being to give participants the tools to make positive changes in their lives. That could be anything from finding a home, gaining skills to enable them to get a job, going to college, or getting help with addiction.

The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), established to help ex-Service men and women make a successful transition back to civilian life, awarded a grant, worth £689,453, for a three-year trial, to provide additional support to around 120 ex-Service men and women from across Scotland who are struggling with the transition to civilian life. The programme is available to those who are unemployed or in temporary accommodation, who struggle with low self-confidence or who have a history of drug and alcohol misuse.

Participants are supported through a three-phase programme. The first phase – referral and engagement – consist of one-to-one sessions that provide participants with advice on employment, personal development and, where appropriate, referral to partners such as drug and alcohol treatment services.

The second phase is a specially designed ‘wilderness journey’ – a programme of personal development and learning in the outdoors with frequent one-to-one and group support sessions away from the challenges of everyday life. Over an intensive five-day course, participants will be given additional support to develop the transferable skills they need to rebuild their lives and move towards independence and employment. So far, 37 participants have taken part in wilderness journey section of the Positive Futures scheme.

Participants in the third and final phase benefit from ongoing support focused on priorities for development including funded internships, employment support and volunteer peer mentoring, particularly to support others to move forward positively with their lives.

The impact of the project is being independently evaluated, with researchers assessing its impact on participants’ lives and whether its methodology can be extended.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said: “It was fantastic to join ten ex-Service men under canvas at the end of their wilderness journey, and to witness the quality of Venture Trust’s staff and the equipment provided – essential when the temperature fell to minus 5 degrees overnight. Learning about their personal circumstances and how the programme has supported them so far is truly inspiring.

"The ex-Service community has a diverse range of needs and it is vitally important they have access to the right kind of support, tailored to smooth what can sometimes be a challenging transition into civilian life. The first year of the Positive Futures programme has just completed, and I look forward to the independent evaluation of the programme to better understand how men and women who have served in the Armed Forces, and struggle with the return to civilian life, can get the support they need.”

Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive of Venture Trust, said: “We were delighted that Ray and Sam joined the group on the latest Positive Futures journey. This really sent a positive message of support to our participants. For all of those leaving the military, it marks a complete change. Most of those thrive, going on to have successful careers and balanced lives. But for a small minority the transition to civilian life can be overwhelming and confusing which can lead to a multitude of negative circumstances.

"The Positive Futures programme offers veterans the support and space to begin to see themselves differently – that they can have a different life. Many will go on to further education, training, volunteering or employment, and this is a key catalyst for positive life changes. FiMT funding of the Positive Futures programme is pivotal to supporting veterans with a commitment to maximising the positive impact for individuals, their families and wider communities across Scotland.”