Survival skills prove par the course for social inclusion scheme

A group of people from hostels and supported housing schemes in Blackburn with Darwen found themselves learning woodland survival skills as part of a course intended to reintegrate them into society.

The 10-week ‘creative engagement’ project was delivered by Newground, part of Together Housing Group. It was funded by the Department of Work & Pensions through its Integrated Communities Programme, which is part of Blackburn with Darwen Council’s ‘Our Community, Our Future’ initiative.

The course combined classroom-based learning on subjects such as ICT, housing pathways, substance awareness and sexual health, with practical workshops such as cooking on a budget and bike maintenance. The participants also went on field trips such as to Chester Street Mosque, Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery and Witton Country Park.

The group were also involved in a workplace visit and given support developing their own employability skills.

To connect them with local services and outdoor spaces, the group spent time at Newground’s facilities, including Offshoots, where they learnt those woodland craft and survival skills, and Greensleeves Allotment, where they took part in gardening and vegetable growing.

“The course has been a huge success with many participants not only reporting a boost in self-esteem but also going on to secure further training or work,” said Ian Whittaker, Newground’s senior project officer.

“I think the key to the success is the variety of the course. While life skills such as managing finances helps with future planning, cultural experiences like visiting their local mosque, museum and football stadium reconnects them to where they live and helps them feel part of their community. Other activities such as yoga and meditation help promote a healthy body and mind.”

Among the course participants was Jake Maher, 24, a former resident of Hollin Street, a Together Housing Group supported housing scheme for homeless people in Darwen.

He said: “Before I started this programme, I was in a black hole. The course has got me out socialising during the day when I’d otherwise be sat in depressed.

“I’ve been to courses similar to this before and for most staff members it’s just another course, but here the staff are so friendly, and they make you feel like they are going to help. They deal with you individually; they get to know you and your problems and actually work with you to help solve them.

Zoe Wignall-Simpson, 21, another former resident of Hollin Street, said: The course has pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to do more for myself. Thanks to the course, my confidence has grown so much. I’ve decided to go back to college to do a catering course and it has given me the courage to be able to find my own house. I’m getting myself back on the right track and actually doing something with my life.”



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