A programme for ex-service personnel struggling with civilian life, that involves spending time in the Scottish wilderness, has won an award recognising outstanding outdoor...

A programme for ex-service personnel struggling with civilian life, that involves spending time in the Scottish wilderness, has won an award recognising outstanding outdoor learning practices.

Venture Trust’s Positive Futures programme has won the Institute for Outdoor Learning Supporting Health and Wellbeing Project Award.

The Institute for Outdoor Learning (IOL) is the professional body for organisations and individuals who use the outdoors to make a difference for others.

The award was for Venture Trust’s work in the outdoors for the Positive Futures programme and recognises schemes that are making a difference to individual and community quality of life.

The Positive Futures Model is a combination of cognitive behavioural approaches, experiential learning, skilled facilitation, relationship building, coaching, mentoring and aftercare. It is delivered through a three-phased programme in the community and in the wilds of Scotland.

Phase one involves community-based support for the individual with an outreach worker to set initial goals, work towards the removal of barriers, stabilise lifestyle, prepare for the wilderness journey along with facilitating the engagement with other services.

Phase two is a seven-day journey in the Scottish wilderness giving veterans – who have spent any length of time in the military – time and space away from daily pressures. It also involves wilderness problem solving challenges, development and review sessions, one-to-one support, group activities, communal living and healthy meal planning and eating.

Phase three builds on the wilderness journey and leads onto professional and peer mentoring, employability opportunities and brokering links to jobs, training, education, volunteering and other services relevant to individual need.

The judges were looking for evidence of: problem diagnosis and a well-developed understanding of the necessary intervention; the underlying methodology and theory of change that shapes provision, and; effective partnerships with health and social welfare professionals.

Faced with a future of increasing obesity, mental health concerns and suicide in the population, well designed and facilitated outdoor learning interventions can provide much needed respite or restorative benefits.

For the past three years Positive Futures has been funded by a grant of £689,453 from the Forces in Mind Trust. The programme creates a therapeutic environment where those participants with mental health issues (frequently part of a complex presenting set) can identify behaviour triggers, and develop – and practice – coping strategies as a foundation for making and sustaining positive life changes.

An independent report released by GAP Communications this week highlights the significant improvement to participants’ lives while also being cost-effective and high value for money. The programme has delivered overall benefit impacts to society in the region of £2.6m to £4m; for every £1 spent, £4.56 of societal benefit impact has been generated.

Organisations referring veterans to the programme have stated: “The service appeals to ex-service personnel who refuse to engage with therapeutic programmes but who will engage with an outdoors programme.”

In the last round of LIBOR grants, Venture Trust was awarded £699,384. This grant from the UK Government will enable the support of 180 more former service personnel and extends the programme until 2021.

Venture Trust chief executive Amelia Morgan said: “The demanding nature of the outdoors and the wilderness, combined with one-to-one support and group activities, presents participants with emotional, social and physical challenges. These challenges are all designed to enable individuals to develop more positive and productive attitudes and behaviours. The wilderness journey is often the most intensive phase of our programmes, but one which generates a huge sense of achievement, and allows our participants to work with our outreach team to build towards a more sustainable and balanced future.”

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