The Blackford Trust - Investing in Talent in Scotland and China

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Please note The Blackford Trust is now closed - this page is retained for purely historic interest

Fairbridge in Scotland, Dundee

Our support

We provided funding for three places in 2009-2010, and another three in 2010-2011, on the Access course run by Fairbridge in Scotland in Dundee (now part of The Prince's Trust). This helped young people who face multiple issues of social exclusion to develop the self-confidence and skills they need to change their lives.

Background to our partner (see also here and here)

Fairbridge has over 25 years of experience working with young people aged 13-25 who face many issues, ranging from school exclusion and homelessness to anti-social behaviour, crime and substance misuse. They often lack family support and exist on the margins of society.

Fairbridge works by offering these young people a unique combination of opportunity and support - opportunity in the form of a wide range of challenging and structured courses and projects, and support in the form of a tailor-made action plan for each young person. Fairbridge does this in a safe environment that addresses challenging behaviour and recognises achievement. Each year over 700 young people choose to come to the organisation, and for many Fairbridge is their first step back into mainstream society.

Dundee faces particular challenges. At the times of our awards, around 16.9% of the city's residents of working age are unemployed, 18.6% of all residents are income deprived, and 30.7% of council wards are “educationally deprived”. Dundee also has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Scotland and still grapples with a widespread problem of drugs misuse. After many of its traditional industries declined, the city is now developing new sectors such as biomedics, digital entertainment production and tourism. These industries require a wide variety of new skills and knowledge.

Since April 2011, Fairbridge has become a part of The Prince’s Trust family. Young people completing the Fairbridge programme now have seamless access to employment-focused support through other Prince’s Trust programmes, such as Get Started, Get into and the Team programme, which involve work experience and build in the expertise of employers. As the leading organisation tackling youth unemployment across the UK, the combined charity will support 5,000 young Scots per year at every stage of their journey towards a brighter future.

Outcomes and lessons

Update September 2009

Blackford Trustees Graham Thompson and Gordon Brown visited the Fairbridge Centre in Dundee on 23 September 2009, to see the organisation's work at first hand. We met several of the young people currently involved in a variety of training and development activities, and took part in some of their excellent teambuilding games (see photos). In a lively question and answer session, the young people explained some of the challenges they have faced as individuals, their accomplishments since joining Fairbridge and their future aspirations.

Alice Ruthven-Hughes, the centre's team leader, and her staff also briefed us on the wider issues faced by the community in in the city. Overall, we were very impressed with what Fairbridge is achieving in Dundee.

All photos courtesy of Fairbridge in Scotland

Update August 2010

In the year since the Trust made its award, the Dundee centre of Fairbridge in Scotland has run 23 Access courses, with 140 young people completing the course and of these, 126 going on to other courses or training. As Alice Ruthven-Hughes explains, “the courses have made a very significant difference to the lives and opportunities for these young people”.

For example, Colin McCabe has completed 394 training hours – including a John Muir Award, and the Tesco and Laidlaw Employability Courses - and has now gained a place at a local further education college. “I came to Fairbridge with a social anxiety phobia”, Colin said, “but their support and friendship brought me out of myself, and I am really looking forward to going to college and developing a career”. Colin added, “I'm also doing peer-to-peer mentoring, so I can help other young people in the way that Fairbridge helped me”.

Another young man came to Fairbridge after being released from prison, and after his Access course, went on to do a further 206 hours of training including First Aid, a Tesco Employability Certificate and a Young Fire Fighters Award. He also spent seven days on the organisation's training ship, 'Spirit of Fairbridge', and is now seeking full time employment.

And a third young man, who had been facing issues with recreational drug use, has flourished thanks to the adventure training opportunities offered by Fairbridge – he did a canoeing course, a John Muir Award, a week on the 'Spirit of Fairbridge' and Sports Leader Award Level I. He is now aiming to do Sports Leader Award Level II and another week on the Fairbridge ship.

“These are all fantastic achievements”, says Dundee team leader Alice, “and are the result of a lot of hard work and commitment by young people from very challenging backgrounds – we are very proud of them !”

Update November 2010

After the very positive outcomes from our support for Fairbridge's work in Dundee in 2009-2010, we were pleased to be able to fund a further three places for 2010-2011.

Update March 2012

In the year since the Trust made its second award, the Dundee centre of Fairbridge in Scotland has run 23 Access courses, delivering over 9,000 hours of support, with 143 young people completing the course. Of these, 16% have received a qualification or award; 15% have moved into employment; 28% have returned to or been retained in under-16 education; and 17% have moved into post-16 education. But a full 71% have achieved something definite on their journey towards a more positive future – a resounding success rate among a group with multiple needs, complex challenges to overcome and often chaotic backgrounds.

As Alice Ruthven-Hughes explains, “these figures show that the programme inspires young people to take the first, difficult steps towards long-term, sustainable life changes. It helps them to take responsibility for their attitudes and behaviours, to clarify their goals in life and become self-directed in pursuing them. Because Fairbridge’s staff take the time to understand young people and earn their trust, they experience a relationship with another adult based on mutual respect – perhaps for the first time in their lives. This is an essential basis for making progress in their personal and social skills, building confidence about their future, and unearthing their motivation to succeed”.

For example, one young woman who joined Fairbridge after the death of her father flourished after taking part in the outdoor aspects of the Access Course, and began to take a great interest in cookery. She took part in the “F Word” dinner, helping to create a three-course meal for sixty local business people and public officials under the guidance of a professional chef. She has now found full-time work. As she says, “my time at Fairbridge was really good; I met lots of new people and did lots of outdoor stuff, I got certificates in health and fitness and food and hygiene. This experience allowed me to see some of Dundee and make some really good friends. I wish I was still able to attend Fairbridge as they have done so much for me”.

Another young woman came to Fairbridge suffering from a lack of confidence and asthma, which initially made the physical parts of the Access course very challenging. However, with the support of Fairbridge's professional staff, within a short time she was confident enough to take part in biking, climbing and abseiling events. Over the next few months she has taken part on follow-on courses in canoeing and mountain biking, as well as practical skills such as cookery and literacy through art. But the highlight of her time with Fairbridge was a six-day course on the organisation's sail training ship, 'Spirit of Fairbridge'. As well as pitching in with steering, navigating and scrubbing the decks, she was also brave enough to go swimming in Lamlash Bay in March! As she said, “the experience has given me the resolve to get a job and make a success of my life”.

A third participant in the programme was a young man who was unemployed and struggling with his self-confidence. He got involved in physical activities, volunteering projects and also spent time on Spirit of Fairbridge. As he said, “I got a lot out of Fairbridge; I was a lot more confident each time I attended as well as learning new skills ... I left because I got a coaching job with Dundee United Football Club, working with young kids coaching them on fitness and football skills. If I wasn’t at Fairbridge I wouldn’t have the confidence to stand up in front of everyone and do my job”.

“These are, once again, all immense achievements”, says Dundee team leader Alice, “and demonstrate once again the power of the Fairbridge programme to change lives for the better”.

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This page was last updated on 18 July 2016.

A charity formerly registered in Scotland, no. SC039658

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