At Future Pathways, we take a trauma-informed approach in our work with people. We know from feedback that people value this approach. 

People tell us it is important that they:

  • feel safe
  • can trust a service or provider
  • have choices about what support looks like
  • can work alongside a service
  • can influence their own support

So, we encourage services we work with to have a trauma-informed approach too.

Below, we give a short introduction to trauma and give a few pointers about things you can keep in mind when working with someone affected by trauma. 

If you would like to find out more, download our short guide to Trauma Informed Practice.
What is trauma?

Trauma is when a person experiences something as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening. Trauma can come from an event, a series of events or an ongoing situation. Not everyone will be affected in the same way.

How might trauma affect people?

Trauma can have a lasting effect on people’s mental, physical and emotional wellbeing and can leave people with a sense that they are not safe in some situations or around some people.

Trauma can affect people in different ways at different times. It can also affect someone a long time after an incident has happened.

Trauma can cause people to feel distressed or fearful. Some people may find it harder to trust people or may struggle to manage emotions. For others, trauma can mean a person might find it harder to look after themselves or they may also live with disabilities or health conditions. Everyone experiences trauma differently.

Things to keep in mind:
  • It can be difficult or stressful to have a stranger in the home. The person you visit might choose to have a friend, relative or support worker there on the day to help them manage that stress. It is important that people know they are safe. You may know that you don’t pose a threat or risk to someone else but that person will not know this and may choose to keep a distance from you, maybe even asking the friend, relative or support worker to talk to you for them.
  • Some projects might require a group of people to come into the person’s home. The person you visit might prefer to know how many people they can expect and who they are. Where possible, keeping the number of people in the group as low as possible can help the person feel safe in their home. It is helpful to be clear about who will be there and when they will be there.
  • If you arrange to meet someone on a certain day or time, you should try to keep the appointment. This also means not arriving late or early. It can be difficult for people to let a new person into their personal space, so being consistent is important. If you can’t make it, give the person as much notice as possible. If you’re unable to give advance notice, please do make a courtesy call on the day you were due to meet (as limited or no communication could cause considerable distress).
  • It is important to respect people’s privacy. This means not talking about the details of work you have completed or are completing for Future Pathways clients to anyone who is not involved in the work. Keeping this information confidential builds trust with people.
  • It is important that people feel safe enough to make choices that are right for them. Make sure that when the person makes decisions, these are respected.
  • Allowing additional time for someone to make a decision can be helpful as decision making can be difficult for some people.
  • Boundaries and predictability are important for everyone but even more so for people who have experienced trauma. Please do not discuss your past experiences with the person. It is also important that the relationship is kept professional and that you don’t attempt to make contact with the person other than about issues related to the job.
In this feature, we take a look at our work from 2023, covering January to November. The round-up below shows key information about the work we do, shining a light on who we work with, how they feel and the difference made to people’s lives across Scotland, the wider UK and beyond. 
What did we do?
Who did we work with?

We worked with people from all over the world, but most people who registered with us live in central Scotland.  

More younger people have registered with us over the last year, and the average age of people registered with us has decreased.  

Through our new ‘About Me’ form we learned that people we support are more likely to experience inequalities like homelessness, addiction, criminal conviction, and disabilities and health conditions that affect their everyday life.   

We worked with 69 Delivery Partners offering a wide range of different types of support.

How did people feel when they engaged with us?

We learned more about people’s experiences with us through our new feedback forms. 

Everyone who gave us feedback on our website felt their experience with Future Pathways was “mostly positive”. 

Everyone who gave us feedback after reviewing or ending their support felt understood and cared about by Future Pathways, and that they could trust the service. 

Here are words people we support used to describe our service:

Delivery Partners told us they feel valued by Future Pathways. The most common word Delivery Partners used to describe Future Pathways was “collaborative”. Most Delivery Partners who answered our questionnaire told us that working with Future Pathways was different to working with other services. Delivery Partners told us that our transparent feedback, open-ness to dialogue, and focus on learning and improvement made Future Pathways different.  

What did people learn and gain?

Most people who gave us feedback after reviewing or ending their support told us they knew what changes they want to make in their life.  

Most people told us they knew more about their strengths and what they can do. 

Most people also felt they had opportunities to influence how Future Pathways develops.  

Most Delivery Partners who responded to our questionnaire shared they had learned more about the people we support through our work together.  

What did people do differently?

Everyone who gave us feedback after reviewing or ending their support felt able to access support that is right for them. Most people also agreed that they have taken steps towards their goals.  

Most Delivery Partners told us that they had made changes to how they work with people because of what they have learned through working with Future Pathways.  

What difference did we make?

Most people who gave us feedback after reviewing or ending their support felt more independent. Most people strongly agreed that they now feel more hopeful about the future. Some people told us that their life was better overall. 

We are delighted to share a new resource from one of our learning partners, the Resilience Learning Partnership (RLP). Together with partners from the National Trauma Transformation Programme, they have created a Roadmap for Creating Trauma-Informed and Responsive Change.

The National Trauma Transformation Programme comprises Resilience Learning Partnership, Scottish Government, COSLA, NHS Education for Scotland and the Improvement Service.

RLP supports the National Trauma Transformation Programme with the development of the mechanisms that help facilitate people with lived experience of trauma being meaningfully involved in the design and delivery (where possible) of services

This resource is designed to be used flexibly and independently by services and organisations across all sectors of the workforce in Scotland, to help identify and reflect on progress, strengths, and opportunities for embedding a trauma-informed and responsive approach across policy and practice.  

The roadmap draws on what people with lived experience of trauma have said would help improve access to support, reduce re-traumatisation, recognise resilience and support recovery, and has input from leaders across services/ organisations have said support them to implement a trauma-informed and responsive approach.   

For more information about psychological trauma, its prevalence and impact and the wider work of the National Trauma Transformation Programme, please visit: 
Flora Henderson, Alliance Manager, explores our relational approach at Future Pathways.

Future Pathways is delivered by the In Care Survivors Alliance. It is one of the two services hosted by the Alliance (the other is Redress Support Service). 

Our fundamental purpose is to help people who experienced childhood abuse and neglect in care to live happier, more fulfilled and more independent lives, recognising and being sensitive to the profound impact of traumatic experience – and tailoring support to set the conditions for positive connection and improving quality of life. 

Since Future Pathways began, we have taken a relational approach to working with people. 

We do this because we know that a positive relationship can be both an outcome in its own right, and a powerful enabler to accessing other supports. 

Trust is a hugely important part of this; it is fundamental to making a connection and to building bridges to other supports and resources. This is especially important for people who may have been let down and poorly served by professionals in the past or may have a deep mistrust of services. 

We decided, therefore, to centre trust in how we think about and measure the difference we make. 

And we decided to be iterative, so we can apply what we learn immediately, constantly aiming to do our best by and for the people we work with.  

For a number of years, we have worked with Matter of Focus. Together, we use impact measurement to drive insight and innovation. And by investing in impact measurement, we have an evidence-based way of reflecting on our work, developing the courage to test new ideas and adapting when we need to.  

Measuring our impact helps us to consolidate what is most important about our approach in a robust way.

As such, as we now have real confidence in the importance of taking a relational approach, with a strong evidence base about what works and how. 

It has helped us take a hard look at what being person-centred and trauma informed means in practice, with effects ripping out across how we work as colleagues, as commissioners of support and as contractors with Delivery Partners, as well as how we respond to feedback and complaints. Our relational approach invites the participation and contribution of everyone who is involved in and benefits from the service.  

Measuring the impact of our relational approach has been central to developing an understanding of what ‘good support’ looks like and feels like to people, who have been seldom heard, or well served by existing services. 

We are delighted to share our final report from the Action Learning Programme. Created by The Lasting Difference, the report highlights the learning and feedback from engagement sessions held with a group of services we work alongside.  

These sessions helped us to: 

  • Explore best practice and ways to remove barriers to support. 
  • Explore how partnership working can contribute to lasting change for individuals and the wider system.
  • Identify ways to increase collaborative working.
  • Inform how we think about our collective impact going forward.
Together we considered the challenges to collaborative working, and how we could address these. We also discussed what supports effective, impactful partnership working.  

We found that our collaborative approach to commissioning brings trust, choice and flexibility to our outcomes-focused support. It also creates a network of support, knowledge and learning with Delivery Partners which, in turn, helps navigate complexity and offer holistic support.  

We also found that our collaborative approach to commissioning can face systemic challenges. For example, inaccessible services, capacity challenges or confusion around national programmes of support can hinder the way we can work together.  

Thanks to the insights from participants, we also learned more about what we do well and where there is room for improvement so we can address challenges to enable wider impact.  

We would like to thank all those who took part in the process. Their insight and feedback was invaluable. 

“This Action Learning Programme helped us consolidate what we have learned about sustaining collaborative relationships with partners. This project was an opportunity to work with our partners to explore how we can enhance our approach to working together, so we can continue supporting people to work towards their personal outcomes. It highlighted the importance of building ongoing communities of practice, and of evaluating our wider impact.” 

Louise Hall, Impact and Evaluation Lead, Future Pathways  

“It was so helpful to better understand Delivery Partners’ experience of working with Future Pathways. For me being relatively new to my role, the voices of everyone in the group and the learning that was shared about what works, helped to shape my own approach as partner relationships lead. The opportunities for learning and improvement can’t be overestimated.” 

Nell Glen, Partner Relationships Lead, Future Pathways  

“People are better supported when the different parts of the system work better together. Future Pathways have shone a light on this by convening partners and exploring how the capacity within the system can be used better. This report shows that more collaborative, trauma-informed commissioning is not only necessary, it’s clearly achievable.”     

Graeme Reekie, Director, The Lasting Difference

Flora Henderson, Alliance Manager, explores how working together as an Alliance can strengthen the service we deliver.

Delivered by the In Care Survivors Alliance, Future Pathways was set up to offer something tangibly different to people who experienced childhood abuse or neglect in Scottish care settings. The aim was to directly reduce the inequalities that come from such experiences. 

Our vision was for people to have fuller, healthier and more independent lives. 

And that this could be achieved by focusing on what was most important to someone and by providing tailored support according to the personal outcomes or goals they wished to progress. 

It is known that the impact of childhood abuse is individual and wide ranging. No two people were alike in their experiences, therefore a personal response was vital. Having consulted with people about what was important to them, the challenge was to respond to a wide range of needs in a personal way. It was hard to see how a single organisation could respond.   

Early evidence highlighted the importance of this: by the time our first scoping report was completed, it was clear that people usually had multiple needs and few supports. Indeed, we found that people had shown great resilience in the face of services that did not always understand or respond to their needs. More of the same would not do.  

In an alliance, each partner is required to act in a certain way to achieve a common goal. 

The Scottish Government identified that alliancing had the potential to offer something new and different. The initial test was whether alliancing would enable partner relationships that allowed for a flexible response to individuals. Done well, it is a culture of innovation and learning, with all partners sharing risk as well as opportunities, never losing focus of the person’s needs and requirements.  

In Care Survivors Alliance brings together four partners:  

While each organisation has specific qualities, experience or remit that we can draw on, we also know that working together enables more effective support for those who access Future Pathways. 

Each partner can share learning, knowledge and expertise to strengthen the service we deliver.

Our collaborative approach also extends to our network of Delivery Partners and beyond. These are the organisations, services and individuals from which we commission support. Over time, we have developed and strengthened our network and we now work with around 62 active Delivery Partners. This commissioning model also offers the flexibility to respond to individual need, offer real choice to people and to truly tailor our support. For example, our network includes organisations and practitioners working across counselling, therapy and record searches, as well as in life coaching, or creative writing services. 

Our hope was that alliancing would lead us to a style of working that fostered inclusivity and learning.

There is a sense that a consistent priority placed on relationships and learning. There are examples of support being offered in new and different ways, improving the response to individuals.  

We have more to learn about the unique contribution that Future Pathways and our partners make in understanding what is most important to someone and convening support around them accordingly. 

Collaboration is essential to any alliance model. This is clearly the case for Future Pathways: our aims can only be achieved through the joint working and shared values of our four Alliance partners. We are committed to building relationships, learning from each other and reducing barriers to support where we find them. 

We are pleased to share a piece of work created with Matter of Focus. Matter of Focus is a company that helps organisations to look at how they support people to reach their goals.  

In 2018, we commissioned Matter of Focus to evaluate our service. This would support our learning and the ongoing development of Future Pathways.  

Since then, Matter of Focus have helped us to track, measure and report on our work. They help us to see the difference we make and where we can improve.  

Understanding our relationships  

The way someone experiences a service (and the feeling they have about this) plays a significant role in how the person benefits from the service. It is important, therefore, to make sure we build effective relationships that foster trust. It is not just about delivering a service, it is about the interaction between us and the people we support.  

Understanding the relationships between Future Pathways and the people we support is essential to how we learn. Matter of Focus created a simple framework which helps us to map a person’s journey of support. Through the framework, we consider: 

  • What we do 
  • Who with 
  • How they feel 
  • What they learn and gain 
  • What they do differently 
  • The difference it makes 

The framework helps us to think about our service, show where we are making a difference and highlight areas we can improve. It also prompts us to consider the relationships we build. For example, how we build trust and how people respond to us. It also helps us to think about how we can support people in their goals, by considering emotional or practical outcomes. 

The framework helps us identify additional context, like the person’s individual sphere (for example, values, habits and skills), their social sphere (such as networks, roles and relationships) and their material sphere (things like infrastructure, time or resources). Considering this additional context helps us to understand the diverse ways people experience Future Pathways. This, in turn, helps us to build and sustain relationships.  

What we learned 

The research showed how important it is for us to consider, talk about and understand the relationships we have. The evaluation approach from Matter of Focus has helped us clarify how Future Pathways make a difference. Their research also shows that establishing and maintaining trusting relationships with those we support is crucial to creating an environment where a path towards recovery becomes possible. In addition, by being able to use a framework that demonstrates evidence of outcomes, we have been able to make a stronger case for continued funding and ensure continuity for survivors.  

In short, this work has shown that it is not just what we do, but how we do it that gets results. This learning is essential for other services too – we encourage partners and organisations to place people’s experiences at the heart of improvement work.   

Collaborative research 

This piece of work by Matter of Focus looked at the issue of trust and how important this is to the people we work with and to our own staff. Focusing on this specific theme helped to show how the evaluation approach can shine a light on the relationship between Future Pathways and the people we support. It also helped to show how we adapted in response to the findings. 

Our collaborative piece has recently been published in  Evaluation and Programme Planning, an international journal hosted by Science Direct. 

You can find out more about the work and read the full paper on Matter of Focus website. 
At Future Pathways, we try hard to provide the best service that we can. We’ve
learned a lot about how to do that since we started in 2016, but there’s more
that we can learn. And there are probably things that other organisations
could learn from us. That’s why we’ve started a new initiative called the
Action Learning Programme.

The programme will last 12 months. It will be led by a group called The Lasting Difference. They are experts in helping organisations like ours to find ways to improve what they do.

Some of the main things we’re going to do are:
  • Encourage different organisations to talk to each other and share their experiences of what worked well and what could be improved
  • Find some examples of things that people did that worked really well for survivors
  • Find ways to tackle barriers that currently make it harder for survivors to get support
Some of the ideas included looking at:
  • How important it is that we learn about and share what we do well. This includes looking at how working together with other services can help to make sure the difference we make lasts.
  • The benefits of services working together. This includes finding examples of how services have connected with each other to meet people’s needs, and how this can help us to work with more people and to make a bigger difference.
  • How to support change and have the biggest impact. This includes looking at small changes that could make a big difference to improve our ways of working and how we work with others.
  • Better understanding the people we have not been able to reach or who are not getting the most out of our support, why that is and what we might be able to do to help.

We are working with 9 delivery partners, including MindMosaic Counselling and Therapy, LinkLiving, Health in Mind Trauma Support Service, LifeLink and Robin Trewartha (Independent Counselling Psychologist). 

We’ll keep you updated on our progress. 
You can view more learning from Future Pathways in our latest Quarterly Report