Mark* is coming to the end of our six week Employability Programme in Falkirk and is planning to use his experiences at the receiving end of the criminal justice system to help others.
He started attending the programme after being found guilty of fraud when he embezzled thousands of pounds from his employer to pay for a compulsive gambling habit. ‘I was under a lot of stress at work,’ explained Mark, 43. ‘I was gambling to take my mind off it. Sometimes I would spend eight hours at a stretch after I got home playing online fruit machines and I started embezzling to keep the gambling going.’
The more he gambled and stole, the more the stress grew and one day Mark couldn’t take the pressure any longer and collapsed. Terrified of being discovered and £50,000 in debt, he had a total breakdown and couldn’t get out of bed. His girlfriend forced him to see a doctor and he was given medication to deal with his depression and anxiety. However, it was only when his employer noticed that money was going missing and the story began to unravel, that Mark’s life began to change.
‘Being found out was probably the best thing that ever happened to me,’ said Mark at Arnotdale House where he is attending our one-day a week employability programme run in conjunction with the Falkirk Criminal Justice and Employment Training Unit which helps ex-offenders get back on track and learn new skills.
‘I was hiding what I was doing but I desperately wanted everything to be out in the open. When you are keeping something inside you, you don’t know where to go or what to do,’ said Mark who is also having therapy to help with underlying issues.
Mark was arrested and sentenced to a compensation order, six months’ probation and 200 hours of community payback. The hours can be partly off-set by attending the employability sessions.
Training includes one-to-one meetings offering individually tailored advice as well as group sessions covering subjects such as how to get work experience, find jobs and write criminal disclosure letters. Confidence building is a crucial part of the experience as many people are at an all-time low after their convictions.
‘This place has really helped me confidence wise,’ said Mark. ‘It gives you a chance to speak to someone one-to-one and they can point you in the right direction and show you how to find help. The really good thing about it is that they treat everyone the same here no matter what you’ve done. They don’t judge you.’
The employability programme has helped Mark see that he does have valuable skills that could be applied to future work in the charity sector. ‘I want to take what I’ve learnt here and use my experience in the judicial and social systems to help others. I have been there myself so I know what people are going through and I can use my experience to help prevent people going down the same path that I did,’ said Mark.
For 50 years we’ve journeyed with thousands of people like Mark in tough realities, helping them transform their own lives for themselves, but there is still much to do.
Please donate to support our continued work in this, our 50th year.