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									ALLIES (Working with the Homeless) – Return to Learning Project

Good Practice ALLIES (Working with the Homeless) – Return to Learning Project. The Return to Learning Project provides a range of essential skills training to homeless people and rough sleepers. Most of the participants lead chaotic lifestyles and are or have been drug /alcohol users. Many also have mental and physical health problems sometimes related to their lifestyle.

Further information provided by the agency
Name of activity/project/programme: Allies Return to Learning What aspect(s) of CLD work is it concerned with? Youth work Adult learning in the community (including literacies) Building community capacity Does the work have a specific focus? If yes, please indicate below (you may tick more than one box): Arts and culture Sport Health Insert as appropriate






Community engagement

Community safety Other (please specify)

Promoting equality



What impact did the work have on participants and the community? (See How Good is Our Community Learning and Development?2 (HGIOCLD?2) 2.1, 4.1 and 4.2)
ALLIES works to improve the quality of the lives of homeless people in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire. The Return to Learning Project seeks to capitalise on the project’s central location in Kilmarnock town centre to provide and essential skills training to homeless people. A Frierian model is applied, which recognises that service users are the experts on their own learning needs. Return to Learning seeks to tackle these needs by developing participants’ skills in order to help them function better in everyday life. Through a varied programme, tailored to meet the needs of the individual almost all of the learners have:    become more successful learners – some have gained certificates for the first time in their lives become more confident individuals better able to function within the community developed greater self esteem and respect for other participants in the project

A small number of participants have gained employment. Almost all participants have improved their core skills of Reading, writing, numbers, ICT, team working and problem solving. To assist in achieving positive outcomes for participants, ALLIES works with a range of partners including housing providers, health service, local authorities and voluntary and church groups.

What measures of progress (if any) did it contribute to? (See HGIOCLD?2 1.1)
Measures of progress are reflected though the Individual Learning Plans. These are established for every participant and are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that personal targets are being met. These also provide a useful record for participants who may, on occasion, drop out of the Project for a period of time for various personal reasons. Other performance measures include the level of accreditation and certification, attendance levels, reduction in offending, and ability to deal with problems with minimal support.

Why the work was carried out? (main purposes, what needs or aspirations were being addressed? How did the work seek to address wider strategic goals?)
The work was carried out following expressed need by ALLIES service users for essential skills training to allow them to function better. The nature of the target group means that they are generally excluded from mainstream provision due to their chaotic lifestyles. The Project helps them to learn at their own pace. The work addresses the wider strategic aim identified in East Ayrshire’s Community Plan and Single Outcome Agreement of improving literacy levels within the local authority. Additionally, there is a perceived reduction in criminal and anti-social behaviour. The duration of tenancies is also increasing and participants have developed more structured and stable lifestyles.


How the participants got involved? (How did you make contact with and involve them?)
ALLIES service users participate in the Return to Learning project because it offers a safe and supportive learning environment. Participants are supported to deal with their own problems before progressing on to further learning and training where appropriate.

How the work was planned? (Who was involved? Did you use any specific planning tools or processes? What impact or outcomes did you set out to achieve?)
All staff are involved in promoting learning and involve the participants as much as possible in this process. A range of frameworks and processes are used to plan and evaluate work. These include client evaluation questionnaires, individual learning plans, learner diaries and, verbal feedback from participants, regular meetings and feedback from staff.

What activities did participants engage in?
The project’s activities are tailored to fit the participants’ needs, both socially and educationally. There are several key activity areas which include literacy and numeracy, IT, art, cookery, health promotion and emotional and physical wellbeing.

How were participants’ achievements recognised and celebrated?

All participants receive certificates for the work they complete and are presented with these at an annual awards ceremony run within the Project. Photographs of various events are displayed in the ALLIES premises to recognise and celebrate participants’ achievements.

What lessons were learned by provider(s)? (What went really well? Any unexpected problems/issues? Any unexpected but positive impacts/outcomes?)
All courses and activities ran smoothly with no major issues. Unexpected but positive outcomes include service users being more aware of health issues such as personal hygiene, sexual health and harm reduction. Previously they had little or no knowledge of these issues and are now taking responsibility for their personal health and wellbeing. The art class has been extremely successful and a high quality of imaginative art work has been produced.


How was the work funded? (Which funding sources supported the work? Is the work sustainable?)
The project is funded on an annual basis through East Ayrshire Community Learning and Development Partnership’s Literacy and Numeracy Fund. Additionally TSB/Lloyds Foundation and Robertson Trust fund a development worker post to support the participants in non-educational areas. The project would be difficult to sustain at current levels without this core funding.

Could the work be replicated elsewhere? (where there any unique local factors that led to its success? What issues would face others in trying to replicate this type of work?)
This project arose through a unique set of circumstances. ALLIES started as a “soup kitchen” but the staff and volunteers took a more long term view of the help that needed to be provided to homeless people and rough sleepers. ALLIES applied for Adult Literacy and Numeracy Funding from the East Ayrshire Community Learning and Development Partnership for some of this work. The Partnership supported the application recognising the number of participants was likely to be small, but the Project would be targeting a particularly vulnerable and hard to reach group. Literacy and Numeracy funding was subsequently made available to support the Project. The work itself could be replicated with homeless people but the initial engagement element would prove problematic without an existing homeless person’s service, such as ALLIES.

Name of lead agency Key Contact: Address: Postcode: e-mail address: Partner agencies Contact Name: Name of Agency: Address: Postcode: e-mail address:

Sandra Day- ALLIES (Working with the Homeless) 40 Soulis St, Kilmarnock KA3 1AP

Tommy Burns Community Learning and development 14 London Road Kilmarnock


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