Putting young people on a secure footing

 Calman TrustWho are they?
THE CALMAN TRUST.

Where are they?
The Scottish Highlands.

What do they do?
Help young people who are leaving home and moving on.

How big are they?
14 staff.

What did they receive?
Symantec Norton Internet Security 2008; MS Office Professional Plus 2007

The outcome?
Computers equipped with business-standard software for use as a training and practical tool.

www.calman.org

Striking out on your own – perhaps for the first time. An exciting period for many; daunting for some; uncertain or troubling for others and a key milestone in life for all. The Calman Trust, based in the Highland towns of Inverness and Alness, offers a range of services to help young people who hit problems after leaving home – from advice, education and information to practical support, advocacy and opportunities. 

“I guess we help people who are struggling with the translation into independent adulthood,” explains Andrew Nixseaman, the Trust’s genial Housing Support Team Leader, as he talks through the scenarios in which Calman might become involved. “The word ‘homelessness’ brings to mind ‘rough sleepers,’” he says. “But there are those who might be struggling to manage a tenancy, staying in a B&B or who are sleeping on friends’ floors.”

With a huge geographical area to cover, the Trust is increasingly looking to I.T. to reach the 200-odd people who might be on its books in a year. Their ‘Information Exchange’ project incorporates a magazine and detailed website, and is produced by young people themselves. Meanwhile, a new scheme is taking shape at the Trust’s offices.

“We’re in the early stages of putting together an enterprise project,” explains Andrew. “To give young people the experience of being in a workplace, but in a ‘safe’ environment where they will be supported if things don’t go according to plan! The I.T. aspect of that is basic but important – they familiarise themselves with systems and software, and do internet searches etc. The service users are then encouraged to use the facilities for their own needs, such as searching for housing or putting together applications for jobs, as well as getting involved in enterprise projects”.

A software donation has just been provided by Symantec and Microsoft, via the CTX programme; a gesture much appreciated by Andrew and his team. “In the past, a lot of time has been spent managing resources,” he says. “Getting funding can be a time-consuming process – and what we spend on one thing cannot be spent on something else. The programme’s superb. We’ve set up six computers – to buy a copy of the software for each would be a fairly significant investment.”

Andrew is unequivocal on the direct benefit to his end users. “Look – if you’re living in Bed and Breakfast accommodation and yours is the only hand-written CV on the pile, yours will stand out,” he argues. “No fancy DTP is needed – it just needs to be nicely presented and it will put the applicant on a level playing field with the others.”

And this small example seems to neatly encapsulate the ethos of the organisation – to give young people the foundation to make the best of their lives. “We don’t want them to become dependent on us,” insists Andrew. “We help them hold things together; help them get a tenancy, get a job and to develop their own skills. With that, they can manage on their own.”

 
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