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A Day in the Life of an Outreach Worker

During 2022 we will continue our series featuring articles that focus on a ‘day in the life’ of people working in a variety of services and organisations across Ayrshire, whose dedication and efforts are key to reducing reoffending and improving outcomes for people caught up in the Justice system, their families, victims, and the community as a whole.

We would like to thank Alice from Venture Trust for sharing her story with us.

Alice commenced work with Venture Trust as an Outreach Worker in July 2021.   Venture Trust work with people experiencing difficult life circumstances, whether that be involvement in the justice system, substance misuse, homelessness, long term unemployment or many other challenges. The aim of Alice’s role is to work with people and prepare them to go on a personal development-based wilderness journey in the highlands of Scotland. There are 4 different programmes offered:

Inspiring Young Futures: Ages 16-25 for young people who are experiencing challenging life circumstances (7-day course)

Living Wild: Ages 16-40 for men and women in the Justice System, currently on a statutory order (10-day course)

Next Steps: Ages 16+ for women only who are at high risk of offending or have been involved in offending in the past as well as experiencing any of the issues mentioned above (5-day course)

Positive Futures: Ages 16+ for ex-service men and women struggling with civilian life (7-day course)

These journeys aim to increase confidence, motivation and develop life skills that people can take back to their community and use to make positive changes within their lives. There is a selection of activities offered that help to achieve these things, such as abseiling, kayaking, hill walking and many of these are experiences that most people will never have had the chance to do before.  On return from the wilderness journey, together staff then look at what’s next for people?   Venture Trust are on hand to help with college applications, volunteering opportunities, or referring people into their employability hub.  Venture trust fully support people to get to a positive destination.

How I got where I am

I graduated from the University of the West of Scotland in the summer of 2021 with an honour’s degree in Criminal Justice. Throughout my degree, I researched closely into how important community and personal development as well as social relationships are for people who struggle to integrate with the positive aspects of their community which has allowed me to recognise issues that can occur within vulnerable individuals.

Whilst studying at university, I worked part-time at my local Asda as well as volunteering with Victim Support Scotland.  Both positions helped to prepare me for my job as an Outreach Worker as it helped me to see that working with the public was a strength of mine. As anyone who’s straight out of education or looking for work knows, you apply for so many jobs (some you want more than others), and this job was my main goal and the one that I wanted the most, so I was over the moon when I heard that I’d been successful.

“It is good to see the team coming together to produce the best outcome for the participants that are involved in the journeys.”

A typical day

A typical day for me involves meeting up with people across Ayrshire.  We usually meet in public places such as coffee shops or parks which I feel allows them to feel more comfortable and it offers a much more relaxed atmosphere. Depending on what phase of the program the person is on, informs what we talk about during our meeting.  For example, Phase 0 is the assessment process to ensure that the person is assessed suitable for our journeys. Phase 1 is all about preparing them for the wilderness journey itself, this involves setting goals and managing their expectations. Phase 2 is when the person is on the wilderness journey and Phase 3 is when they return, and we look at the possible positive destinations that they could get involved in. I need to allocate time to log every meeting or phone call on our system, so I try and manage this at the time so that my paperwork doesn’t build up. In between meeting participants, I will be emailing or arranging to meet with different organisations to promote interest in Venture Trust throughout Ayrshire and generate referrals.

The difficulties affecting my work at the moment

With any workplace, Covid-19 has had a big impact within Venture Trust, even now as restrictions are easing. The wilderness journeys had just re-commenced when I joined at the end of July, having been cancelled during lockdown.  Some of the journeys have had interruptions and complications due to Covid-19 but when this happens it is good to see the team coming together to produce the best outcome for people that are involved.

We would normally host groupwork sessions prior to going on the journeys so that all the people can meet, take part in some icebreaker exercises and chat more about the journey itself, however these have been stopped at the moment to ensure that everyone is able to go away on the journey the following week, Covid-free.

Prior to Covid-19, Outreach Workers were able to hot desk in Social Work offices which helped to build relationships with staff, generate more interest and increased referrals. However, since I have started in this role this has not been possible due to Covid-19, but we are hopeful it will start up again in the future.

“I had worked with a woman a few months prior to this, who was also going on the journey. It was amazing to see her confidence and self-worth grow within just 5 days.”

The moment I’ll always remember

There have been a lot of moments within my first few months with Venture Trust that I’ll always remember but one in particular stands out.   I went on one of our wilderness journeys to experience it for myself, it was the Next Steps course which is a 5-day course for women experiencing challenging life circumstances. The Next Steps course is usually residential (Covid-19 depending), and we stayed in accommodation in Glenlyon.   The group took part in a couple of hill walks, an abseil off a viaduct in Killin as well as many personal development activities that had a huge benefit on everyone, including myself.

I had worked with a woman a few months prior to this, who was also going on the journey, and it was amazing to see her confidence and self-worth grow over the 5 days.  On the Monday, she was so nervous to meet the other participants and kept herself to herself but by the Thursday, she was taking on individual tasks such as the morning check-ins and evening reviews. The positive change in her from the Monday to Friday was so incredible to see first-hand and I’ll always remember it.

One thing I wish I had known when I started out

In university, I thought I knew and had learned about a lot of the challenging life circumstances that some people go through, however I had only scratched the surface. I wish I had known more in depth about some of the challenges people face like substance misuse, homelessness and what it’s really like to be involved within the justice system. There have been a few people that have caught me off-guard during our meetings, and I wish I had heard first-hand experiences before entering this role so that I could understand people’s situations a lot better. I think that’s why it’s so important that people start to share their stories and experiences, even with just one person, so that those who haven’t experienced anything like that in their lives, can begin to understand and acknowledge the help and support that can be provided.

“I love seeing the people when they come back from their wilderness journey to hear them talk so excitedly about their experience and see the positive change in them.”

What I love about my job

There are so many things that I love about my job, like meeting new people and getting to know them whilst helping them reach their potential and see the best in themselves through the wilderness journeys. I love seeing people when they come back from their wilderness journey to hear them talk so excitedly about their experience and see the positive change in them.   Meeting with different organisations and possible referrers, to talk about ways we can all work together to help those struggling the most.  I also love how close-knit the team is at Venture Trust.   The Outreach Team at the West Hub have a team meeting every Friday and it is so good to hear updates from management and other Outreach Workers as well as checking in with how everyone’s week has been.

If there was an extra hour in the day

If there was an extra hour in the day, I would spend more time talking with people. I schedule in a set amount of time for everyone I meet with, but sometimes I feel as though we could sit talking for another hour, however if I have another appointment in the diary, it isn’t always possible.   It is truly inspirational to listen to the experiences of people and to see how far they’ve come, and it feels amazing to be able to help them in this next stage of their life.

“It is truly inspirational to listen to the experiences of people and to see how far they’ve come, and it feels amazing to be able to help them in this next stage of their life.”

The not so nice parts of my job

I think the not so nice part of my job would be seeing people who aren’t quite ready to work with us yet but have been referred in. This is difficult as you can often see the potential in them and want to help as much as possible, but Venture Trust is just another thing for them to deal with whilst they’re not quite ready. On the other hand, some people who get referred in to work with us when they’re not quite ready actually find out for themselves that they are, and they throw themselves into the opportunity.

“This job has confirmed to me that this is the career path I want to embark on as well as opening the door to many training opportunities that will benefit not only me, but the people I’m working with.”

Would I choose this path again if I could?

I would definitely choose this path again. Getting this job straight from university has been a massive accomplishment for me and it has taught me so much already. This job has confirmed to me that this is the career path I want to embark on as well as opening the door to many training opportunities that will benefit not only me, but the people I’m working with. I look forward to growing my knowledge and skills working within this sector and continue to meet inspiring individuals that are ready to make positive changes in their lives.

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