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An extraordinary, positive journey: 10 years of support for Action for Children Scotland

An extraordinary, positive journey: 10 years of support for Action for Children Scotland

When Action for Children Scotland applied to the 14:19 Fund in 2008, it had just begun a pilot employability programme for young people. The charity had a long history and pedigree in supporting vulnerable young people with difficult childhood experiences who, as a result, faced multiple and complex challenges holding down a job or succeeding in education, but it had never run an employability programme before.

AfC wanted to help the young people they supported to succeed and saw an opportunity in 14:19 for those they worked with to gain the skills and experience to get a job and career by establishing a long-term programme from their current pilot.

Youth Build was designed to help young people, many of whom were in the care system, had experienced the court system or lived through a very difficult home life, to gain skills, work experience and certificates in the construction industry. Inspiring Scotland committed to the vision and the idea and began funding AfC to take its nascent programme further.

Beginning in January 2009, the Youth Build programme built links with employers and trainers in the construction industry. Over a six-month course, young people got hands-on experience, industry-standard training and the opportunity to gain apprenticeships and, eventually, jobs.

However, because the young people joining Youth Build were often living through very difficult circumstances, the team at AfC knew that many of them would not be ready for the world of work, regardless of the qualifications they gained. Emotional challenges, mental health issues, a lack of confidence and self-belief, as well as often worsening home circumstances, all contributed to some of the young people not being able to cope with challenges of Youth Build.

So AfC also used funding from Inspiring Scotland to develop a complementary programme to support its Youth Build project. The Challenges programme supported young people to adjust and develop themselves through community-based volunteer work where they worked with AfC coordinators on the key skills needed to be ready for the opportunities afforded by Youth Build.

This has been a most extraordinary, positive journey for Action for Children and the young people we support.

Tony Scally, Assistant Director of Service Development, Action for Children Scotland

By 2014, half-way through the 10-year funding commitment, AfC had supported more than 1,000 young people through Youth Build and Challenges. Despite this significant success, many more young people were being referred to Action for Scotland, often with more complex issues and living in even more difficult circumstances.

AfC approached Inspiring Scotland again with an idea for a third programme to support these young people whose journey to sustainable employment or education was longer and more complex, and who needed additional support to take the initial steps.

The Transitions programme, alongside Challenges and Youth Build, helped AfC support more young people but importantly helped the charity to offer more effective support for the hardest to reach young people. Together, the organisation’s three programmes resulted in more sustainable outcomes for the young people they sought to help.

With dedicated and flexible funding from Inspiring Scotland and specific support from its Performance Advisor, AfC was able to distil feedback and experience and adapt lessons from its ongoing work to develop and scale its programmes, ultimately helping more young people to gain the confidence, self-esteem, skills and experience to fulfil their ambitions.

But AfC didn’t stop there. Guided by the mantra “never give up on anyone and never turn anyone away,” AfC’s team developed an After Care support system to ensure that the young people graduating from their programmes were able to sustain jobs and work placements.

The long-term investment model and the flexibility of the investment has enabled a solution-focused response to significant changes within the economic, financial and political landscape which affect young people’s opportunities over the last decade.

Tony Scally, Assistant Director of Service Development, Action for Children Scotland

For many of the young people AfC supported, circumstances could change rapidly, and they could all too easily revert back to old habits and feel unable or incapable of committing to work. Working with employers, AfC made sure its Coordinators were the first point of contact should a young person be absent from work. Using trust, knowledge and understanding built over time with each young person, AfC staff could offer a level of personal care outside of formal mechanisms, helping more young people to stay in work and learn to cope with changing circumstances.

As the 14:19 Fund nears its end, AfC continues to develop – expanding its into-work programmes into other industries with its Hi Hospitality project and expanding After Care to support of all its graduates. With Inspiring Scotland funding of over £6 million to date, AfC has raised a further £7.4 million in leveraged funding and supported more than 2,500 young people into a sustainable destination of work, education or training.

The evolution of AfC’s employability work, from a bold idea 10 years ago to a comprehensive suite of person-centred, thoughtfully developed programmes is testament to the dedication, skill, imagination and passion of its staff, as well as a stark example of what can be achieved with long-term, flexible support and a committed and collaborative partnership between funder and funded. According to Tony Scally, AfC’s Assistant Director of Service Development, “This led to great innovation and many new approaches, ensuring young people had access to services and support at the level, time, pace, location and intensity they require.”

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