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The Coach House Trust

The Coach House Trust provides a range of occupational and learning opportunities to support people with multiple health or social barriers to move into employment, training or education. These opportunities include environmental conservation, landscaping, ceramics, traditional crafts and horticulture. The project is based in the West End of Glasgow and works with adults from across the city. 

Coach House Trust

What are the aims and objectives?

The principal aim of the project is to promote empowerment by improving the life circumstances and life chances of adults who experience disability, disadvantage and exclusion. Participants are supported to identify and overcome the barriers to their social and economic inclusion and realise their full potential in society.

Who are the participants and the partners?

Based in the West End of Glasgow, the project engages with and assists adults from across Glasgow who are amongst the hardest to reach and furthest from the labour market. Participants may be experiencing enduring mental health problems, chaotic lifestyles (including drug and alcohol misuse), history of offending, learning issues and / or homelessness.

The Coach House Trust works in partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Glasgow City Council Social Work Services and receives funding from a number of sources including the BIG Lottery and the European Social Fund.

“We will always find something for everyone and work with them to discover their interests even if they don’t know what they are when they arrive.”

Why was the project set up?

Developed from The Belmont Lane Community Gardens Association, The Coach House Trust was established to provide productive work in the community for people coming out of long term institutional care and with a range of mental health, addiction and learning problems. An initial small grant from Glasgow City Council bought the necessary tools and equipment, and the project was launched in 1997 with an initial focus on restoring, designing and developing community green spaces.

What does the project do?

With the strapline ‘challenging isolation and intolerance with innovation’, the project provides an integrated and comprehensive package of support including engagement, orientation, core skills, pre-vocational training, work experience, guidance and mentoring, counselling and aftercare to assist participants to make the transition to independence and inclusion.

The approach taken is tailored to the needs, interests and wishes of the individual. The staff work with each individual to develop a personalised programme. Gardening and outdoor work are central to the project design, with training workshops provided in areas such as woodworking, recycling, ceramics, creative writing, fabrics, tree surgery, painting and horticulture. 

Following an engagement, assessment, induction and orientation period of two weeks, participants are offered up to 35 hours of activity and support each week, learning in teams of up to six members. The workshops are relatively informal and emphasis is placed on individual development. People choose their activity and work at their own pace. Practical support and worthwhile work is offered to help people productively reintegrate into community life. Project participants work in and with the local community so that mutual trust and respect is built and integration is strengthened.

The Coach House Trust encourages and supports participants where they wish to progress into education or employment. All activities are directed at a move into the labour market. 

“For some this is just a small step towards employment and for others this is a move back into work after receiving support”

Participants also have access to:

  • Peer mentors who assist participants to overcome barriers to independence and inclusion such as addiction recovery, financial and housing issues while they are with the project. The peer mentors are former service users who have made the transition to independence and inclusion and wish to put their skills and experience to work in assisting others.
  • Clinical support in terms of community mental health workers.
  • Outreach support at crucial points which may present barriers to inclusion e.g. financial, housing, legal, benefits, family. 
  • Aftercare support to ensure gains made are not lost unnecessarily in the period of post project completion for up to nine months after the participant has formally left the project.

Has the approach changed over time?

The Coach House Trust has over 15 years of experience in delivering services and direct working with this client group. The project has developed over the years due to the changing nature of the marketplace. It has adapted and responded to the needs and interests of the participants as identified by partner and public sector organisations and the rising number of self referrals. 

The number of activities on offer and the variety of produce grown by the project has also developed over time. Participants are able to take home the produce they grow and the remainder is used in the project café. Produce from one project base is sold at local farmers markets. A wide range of products created by the project, including bespoke furniture, art work and ceramics, are displayed for sale at the Coach House Trust Shop in Glasgow’s West End.

"We have 'stickability' - we don't give up on people and bend over backwards to accommodate"

In what way is the approach ‘asset based’? 

The project works to empower individuals by supporting them to build self esteem, self confidence and life skills. It also assists participants to take increased control over their own life circumstances and construct independent lives within their community, enhancing their resources and capabilities as they progress. Individuals are supported to identify and overcome barriers to their social and economic inclusion in society and to realise their full potential thereby improving life chances and circumstances leading to a reduction in inequalities.

The project provides occupational, educational and employment opportunities and seeks to help the individual discover their talents through offering a wide range of workshops and activities. The project is focused on development of new assets and the enhancement of existing assets via individual learning opportunities, team working and the development of life skills. Confidence building is intrinsic to all project activities.

Through the peer mentoring approach of the project, the staff mentors have developed a range of skills and the confidence and ability of ex-participants is conveyed to new participants, demonstrating what a positive future can look like.

How has success been measured?

Project activity and performance are measured by means of recording on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Using WEMWBS (the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale) and other validated scales, a baseline assessment of each participant is carried out at their initial project assessment. Each participant discusses and agrees what progress would look like for them and a personal development plan is put in place. Follow-up assessment is then carried out 12 weeks later to establish progress.

Internal evaluation of project design, delivery and performance is carried out on a quarterly basis and external evaluation commissioned on an annual basis. Contact is maintained with project leavers and through aftercare to facilitate longitudinal evaluation.

What are the strengths and challenges? 

The Coach House Trust focuses on participant empowerment by building confidence, self esteem and life skills. Participants are actively engaged in the design and delivery of all programmes and projects. The outdoor and environmental focus provides participants with work experience, formal certificated training and the development of a range of skills suitable for the workplace. Over the last three years, 18 people have moved into employment, two into modern apprenticeships, with all participants demonstrating positive progression on the employability pathway. Eleven participants have gone onto college (2010 to 2011).

The project adopts a flexible and adaptive response to the needs and wishes of the participants and strives to find an activity or area of interest for every participant, even if this takes time, and structure to the day for participants. Increases in confidence, sense of control and quality of life (as measured by WEWMBS) has been reported for most attendees and an increase in the uptake of in-house services demonstrates that participants feel ready to have more input into the direction their lives take.

Improvements in mental health, physical health and social health are reported by the majority of participants who engage with the project, alongside improved confidence, self control and self esteem. Through the peer mentoring approach of the project, the mentoring staff with backgrounds and / or experiences similar to participants allow for an easier transition into the project as participants become aware that they too could have a more positive future.

Staff expressed frustration that some participants have developed a dependence on the project. It was felt that personal assets and attributes may be compromised for these participants. It is clear however that engagement with the project had not been at the detriment of any participant and all had benefitted in some way. When they are ready to progress, the need to more quickly move participants on to other suitable projects or into education or employment was highlighted. 

Due to the current economic climate, the project faces challenges in securing employment opportunities, and previously set targets now felt unrealistic. Difficulties were also identified by the project in sourcing external support (in numeracy, literacy, legal and financial issues, and advocacy) due to organisational financial cutbacks by outside organisations and altered eligibility criteria. This type of support and training is increasingly being delivered by in-house staff as the need for support in these areas continues.

At a personal level, staff expressed high levels of job satisfaction and pride in being part of the ‘journey’ that participants take during their time with the project. There is clear recognition by the staff of the skills and attributes that the participants have if they are given a chance to develop them and are supported to do so. Participants expressed high levels of appreciation for the project and the range of activities and support they received. They spoke of the importance of the Coach House Trust in providing structure to the day, being able to develop new skills and work outdoors and the social interaction with other participants. 

Relevant links to other parts of the Understanding Glasgow site:  health, lifestyle, poverty, social capital, education, economic participation, environment and mindset