Brighter Future Ahead For CashBack For Communities Participant Aaron
Fri 6th October 2023
Aaron’s journey from criminal justice involvement to volunteering with Glasgow Street Aid and securing full-time employment saw the 17-year-old turn his life around through participation in the Foundation’s Cashback For Communities – Towards New Futures programme.
The initiative has the goal of reconnecting young individuals with current or prior convictions to assist them in moving towards a more promising future, which may include opportunities in employment, training, or further education.
With things now looking bright for his next steps, Aaron reflected on how he was feeling before starting on the eight-week programme.
He said: “Prior to starting on CashBack, I was feeling a bit nervous because I didn’t know who was going to be there and if I was going to get along with people and things like that, but I was absolutely fine when I got here.”
“I’ve been involved in the criminal justice system, and I spoke to my Mum, and she wanted me to change my behaviour and how I acted.”
“It was originally my social worker that found out about the course, and they spoke to my Mum about it and then I said to myself ‘that sounds good’ and if I could possibly get employment out of it then that’s something I wanted to get involved in.”
“When I first spoke with my Mum about coming to CashBack, I was really against it but the way she explained how the course works like how I can get a job out of it and how it can help me change as a person and change my life for the better I thought that it sounded like the right thing for me. As soon as I had turned up for the first day, I felt like I was ready to come back for day two and really give it a go.”
The CashBack programme is delivered within Ibrox Stadium and partners with four Scottish prisons and Govan Thriving Place, among other referral sources. Its primary focus is on providing support to a diverse group of young people aged 16 to 24 from both the local area and beyond.
The course is delivered by CashBack Coordinator, Andy Gordon, and Community Executive, Ross Lyon. Aaron explained why their approach to delivery, made all the difference.
He said: “The way the staff help you with things really made all the difference for me. They know how to get everybody talking and get you working on things that will make a difference for you.”
“Andy and Ross’ approach to the course is different to anything else that I’ve had experience with. They’re more joyful and more interactive compared to teachers and lectures. The best thing is they’re just straight up with you.”
“The people that I had met on the course really made me want to come back and Andy has been really good with me and made me want to keep going.
“I think the way the course is delivered would make anyone want to stick at it.”
CashBack participants experience improvements in both their physical and mental well-being by engaging in accredited fitness and coaching sessions, as well as completing a mental health first aid course.
The initiative also offers various formal and industry-recognized qualifications, making use of the Foundation’s SQA Centre status. Additionally, it provides vocational work experience and enhances core skills, significantly boosting participants’ employment prospects and enhancing their CV’s. Something Aaron found extremely beneficial.
He said: “Knowing that I could come here and work towards qualifications was a big positive for me. Being able to put those on my CV and then that being able to help me apply for jobs has been great.”
With new qualifications and a up-to-date CV Aaron also decided that he needed to change as a person to continue to give himself a platform to succeed. As part of his journey, Aaron decided to volunteer and help out in the community.
He said: “Originally because of my involvement in the justice system I thought that it would be good to give back to the community. I was just browsing TikTok and I saw this post of these people in hi-vis out on the streets helping people and I thought to myself ‘what is this?’ so I went onto it and it was Glasgow Street Aid. So I went onto their website and saw what they do and wondered what I could do. I applied to work in the ambulance control room and after a couple of weeks I heard back that I had been successful so yeah it’s just me trying to give back for how I behaved in the past.”
On top of his continuing volunteer work, Aaron now has a job with Buchanan Orthotics lined up. He described how the opportunity arose.
He explained: “The opportunity with Buchanan Orthotics came about through Andy. We were in just as usual, and he mentioned that we were going to visit them and I could have easily said no but I thought to myself ‘the course is coming to an end soon and I actually need a job.’ After the visit I said to Andy that I liked it and now I’m going for a trial with them and hopefully that will work out.”
CashBack Coordinator, Andy, was equally pleased to see Aaron gain employment.
He added: “Aaron said he was now at the right stage in his life, where he was looking to seek full-time sustainable employment and gain various qualifications. Requalifying in Emergency First Aid at Work was crucial as he now volunteers the majority of his free time to Glasgow Street Aid where he has found a passion for helping and aiding people from his local community.”
“Throughout the course, Aaron has improved drastically in terms of his maturity; highlighted by supporting myself and Ross daily, as well as the other participants on the course. He has essentially become a role model for other participants on the course. Aaron has also stopped engaging in anti-social behaviour, is concentrating on supporting his young family, and is paying back his local community through his voluntary work.”
“Aaron also developed crucial experience in a practical work setting and we are delighted that he has now successfully gained a full-time apprenticeship with Buchanan Orthotics.”
After successfully completing the CashBack programme Aaron wanted to encourage others to achieve what he has.
He said: “I’ve got the confidence to go and apply for jobs and things now. With my work in the ambulance control room as well it’s really given me a boost. I’m a bit nervous about my trial but I’m going to go and give it my best.”
“My CashBack experience has been amazing, and it’s helped me turn things around. I’d recommend it to anyone.”
The fact that you can get qualifications and secure employment is really appealing.”
CashBack for Communities is a unique initiative by the Scottish Government. It allocates funds recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to invest in community programs, facilities, and activities largely aimed at diverting young people at risk away from potential involvement in criminal or anti-social behaviour.
This program is offered free of charge and runs for four days a week over a period of eight weeks. Even after completion, participants receive ongoing support to help them stay motivated and on track towards achieving their goals.
The next course runs from 16 October to 7 December 2023. To register your interest or to refer someone, please contact CashBack Coordinator, Andy Gordon via AndyGordon@Rangers.co.uk