HE had been using drugs for ten years.

His days dragged by as he wasted them in his or friends’ houses.

He had never had a steady job.

But thanks to a small Southampton charity, some help and determination, and the prospect of a job, Alan has turned his life around.

Alan, now 25, was referred to the Rainbow Project last summer, by the Wheatsheaf Trust.

He describes himself as having been ‘in a bad way’.

The charity took him onto their Life Chances job placement scheme, which is backed by the Daily Echo.

They gave him employment training and someone to talk to and showed belief in him.

And despite taking drugs for a decade he quit for good.

It was the prospect of getting a job placement with Southampton City Council that motivated Alan to turn his life around.

“I knew if I didn’t come off the drugs I wouldn’t get a job,” said Alan.

“It was a choice between a job and drugs and I chose the job.”

Alan knew he would need to change his lifestyle if he was going to stay drug free.

“I went cold turkey and stayed away from people I was hanging around with from before. I also deleted people’s numbers off my phone,” he added.”

“It took about five months before I could look back and think ‘I’m off them for good’.”

Alan was taken on for a year on a work placement as a maintenance pre-apprentice and has now been taken on for a two year full apprenticeship by Southampton City Council.

The Rainbow Project did not just find him the placement but supported him throughout, liaising with his bosses, visiting him in his workplace, and providing a mentor and training.

“It’s been amazing. It’s the best thing that has happened to me,” said Alan.

“I am really proud of myself. It’s had a massive effect on my life. I can have a normal conversation now. I’m not paranoid.

“Now I have money to help my family and to do normal things. Back then, I hardly even had any clothes. Now I can go to the cinema, buy clothes and do the normal things that people my age should be doing.”

The placement also allowed Alan to support his family at a difficult time when his father was badly injured in a motorbike accident.

“If I didn’t have this job, I don’t know how we would be paying the bills,” he said.

Alan impressed his bosses at Southampton City Council so much that they have provided the funds for him to be taken on as an apprentice.

“Alan is our fourth placement from the Rainbow Project and it’s worked really well for us,” said Debbie Van Coller, policy and project officer at the Housing Services division.

“We get really good support from the project. We’re keen to take on the people who live on our estates because it makes a difference in our community.”

Cllr Warwick Payne, cabinet member for housing and sustainability, added: “The council is keen to encourage apprenticeships, especially as it gives local young people a great chance to get involved and make a valuable contribution.

“Our apprentices often go on to become valued members of our team and we hope this remains the case for years to come.”

The Rainbow Project currently has eight young people in placements and will shortly be recruiting four to five more young people, including a new placement at Southampton City Council.

Trudi Thompson joined the Rainbow Project earlier this year as project manager. Having worked for a number of years with young people with chaotic lifestyles and challenging behaviour, she says that the Life Chances scheme is something special.

“This project is unique,” she said.

“It supports the young person throughout their whole year. Most projects find a young person a job placement and then leave them to get on with it.

“We are very mindful that the young people we work with often need nurturing. We train them and help them develop their life skills before their work placement. We take the time to prepare them.”

Debbie says that this is what makes the Life Chances scheme so special.

“The additional support that the Rainbow Project offers makes a real difference to us,” she said.

“We know we can count on the Rainbow Project if there are any issues.”

And having experienced the project’s training and support, Alan can’t speak highly enough of the scheme.

“I’m so grateful for this opportunity, I can’t explain how grateful I am, It’s changed my life massively.”

l The Rainbow Project needs to recruit more businesses to take part in their Life Chances scheme.

Businesses pay the minimum wage for the young person to the scheme, which is actually the employer and takes on related responsibilities. It is also looking for sponsors who may not be able to take on a young person but would like to pay their wages to work elsewhere.

l For more information, visit: therainbowproject.co.uk or call 023 8022 3525