If someone had told me a year ago that I’d be planning to go to college, I wouldn’t have believed them. But Stepping Out has opened up a new world of possibilities for me. It’s given me my life back.” These are the words of Ruth, a participant on Stepping Out, National Learning Network’s innovative programme which is based in Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Stepping Out is specifically designed to assist people who have been to prison or who are on probation to rebuild their lives.”

Funded by the Probation Service in partnership with SOLAS and the Local Education and Training Board, Stepping Out aims to work with participants from the midlands region to prevent them from re-offending, enhance their employment opportunities and increase access to further education.

Stepping Out has supported hundreds of people since its inception

Stepping Out has helped over 220 people with wide-ranging needs relating to their drug or alcohol addictions, history of offending behaviours and poor education or lack of work experience.

Stepping Out operates at several stages, from in-reach in prison and outreach in the community to follow-up aftercare and one-to-one support. The programme has a continuous intake, and all the participants complete an assessment procedure that includes an educational and health appraisal before joining. 

Programme modules include IT, literacy and mathematics, healthy living, arts and craft, offending behaviour, conflict resolution and confidence-building. In addition, Stepping Out staff work closely with the Probation Service and the local community alcohol and drug services on an ongoing basis. By working together, a cohesive and structured programme can be put in place for each participant, offering support and maximising opportunities.

For more information on Stepping Out or to see if you are eligible, please get in touch with the programme coordinator by emailing  james.mcnamee@nln.ie or telephoning 090 647 9293.