Apex Ascend Programme
European Social Fund
2012 - ongoing
The Apex Ascend project required funding to increase opportunities for ex-offenders and people at risk of offending to find work.
Apex Scotland works with prisoners, ex-offenders and people at risk of offending, providing skills training and education to enable recipients to lead fulfilling lives. The organisation applied to the European Social Fund in 2011 to fund the Apex Ascend Project, a scheme designed to give those taking part the opportunity to gain qualifications, improve their job searching skills and to increase their levels of confidence and motivation.
To date the Apex Ascend project has supported 359 individuals. This figure is expected to reach a minimum of 390 by the project end date.
Grace was referred to Apex in March 2013 from her addictions Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN). At that time she was drinking, albeit in a controlled way, in an attempt to prevent seizures and was accessing services to deal with alcohol misuse.
Apex initially provided Grace with acupuncture twice a week to help her deal with anxiety, and she also took part in an outdoor project to improve her health and wellbeing. Grace and her CPN agreed it would be beneficial for her to complete the Beechwood House 14-week residential programme. Prior to her initial assessment, Grace completed a 10-day detox at a specialised hospital in May. However, the waiting list was longer than anticipated and Grace was unable to start the programme until November 2013.
During the waiting period Grace’s attendance with Apex was consistent and was one of the main factors providing stability for her lifestyle and recovery path. As with anyone attempting to recover from severe substance misuse, Grace faced many challenges. One of those was the rebuilding of her relationship with her children. During the spring Apex arranged for Grace’s children and family to attend a family open day at Abreachin. The gathering was organised by the Social Work Team, with the carers managing the transport arrangements for Grace and her daughter.
Grace and her daughter at the Family Open Day
Through the work that Grace and her daughter undertook, her daughter was able to see her mother in a positive environment and to appreciate that the changes in her mother were real and sustainable. Grace also received an award for her contribution to the family open day, making it a happy and positive memory during what was a challenging time for her family.
Once she had moved into Beechwood, Grace could focus on maintaining her recovery and abstaining from alcohol while continuing to attend Apex for acupuncture and the outdoor projects.
Grace has now left Beechwood but she continues to work with Apex and has amassed more than 300 volunteer hours on the outdoor projects. She has also completed Auricular Acupuncture and SMART Recovery training. More recently she became a Peer Mentor and now supports other service users while maintain her sobriety.
Grace receiving her award from Apex Chief Executive
Before taking part in the Apex Ascend Programme Donnie had been living on the streets. He had no job, no sense of direction in life and he regularly found himself in trouble with the police, appearing in court several times for shoplifting offences. Donnie was referred to the Apex Ascend Programme and quickly discovered he had the opportunity to turn his life around.
Speaking about his experiences of the Apex Ascend Programme, he said: "I had been living rough in Inverness and getting to know Northern Constabulary on an almost daily basis. After yet another PNC check an Officer directed me towards the Homeless Day Centre who welcomed, advised, listened and quickly helped me find B&B accommodation and a roof over my head before the autumn weather kicked in."
From there Donnie was referred to supported accommodation - a stable environment where he could focus on his recovery. He said: " They gave me the opportunity to structure my time effectively and address the issues I was struggling with on my recovery journey.
"One such option was to undertake the acupuncture treatment at Apex Scotland whereupon I was duly delivered to their door, nervously taking my first steps in acquaintance and induction. I needn’t have worried. After taking several sessions I found it really helped me calm myself and give me an hour in the week I could be at peace and focus on my next move. From these sessions I gained confidence to put myself forward for any projects the Unit may be needing help with. Soon after I was a member of a painting team tasked with refreshing the décor of an outdoor centre gear store in Aviemore."
Donnie working on one of the many Apex outdoor projects
Donnie got involved in other painting projects and soon realised he wanted to commit even more of his time to the work of Apex.
He said: "Another painting event followed soon after, in Lochaber, and I was struck by the strong teamwork ethic the Apex staff promoted, displayed and clearly evidenced in these projects. I became a peer mentor and was involved with the ESF Ascend project full time. As my journey with Apex continues I can only look forward to helping with what it says on the tin…ENGAGE, INSPIRE, IMPROVE, SUSTAIN."
Donnie continued to engage with Apex on a voluntary basis, helping out on a weekly basis with outdoor projects and using his growing experience to strengthen his CV. Apex also asked Donnie if he would like to become an acupuncture practitioner and help to deliver weekly acupuncture sessions.
He was eventually offered and accepted a full-time job with Apex and, after gaining more experience and growing his confidence he eventually left to take up a placement role with a local hotel. He is still working there now as a Night Portering Manager.
Donnie giving a presentation on the Apex Ascend Programme