Launchpad is providing innovative support to veterans of all ages and their partners, with centres in Newcastle upon Tyne (Avondale House) and Liverpool (Speke House). Their affordable supported rental accommodation, which offers residents on-site support, communal facilities and advice, provides a safe environment for veterans to live and seek work; providing them with the opportunity to successfully make the transition from military to civilian life however long ago they left the Services.
ABF The Soldiers’ Charity has provided continuous support to Launchpad whose achievements have been significant, since their launch in 2013. In that time 230 veterans have passed through Launchpad’s houses, or are still residents. Of those, 72 veterans have gained employment so far; this is a remarkable achievement given that about 95% of the veterans come from a homeless background. 100% of the veterans have received benefits and financial advice, 95% have received training for employment and many have undertaken community projects. Three of the residents at Avondale House in Newcastle met The Soldiers’ Charity in 2016 to discuss the impact of having such a vital support following their Army careers.
Keith, formerly of The Royal Fusiliers (Reserves)
Back in 2014, Keith, who served with the Territorial Army for ten years, appeared in The Soldiers’ Charity’s Homeless Veterans Campaign in partnership with The Independent newspaper. After losing his job at a call centre around Christmas time, and with little money and a flat eviction looming, Keith resorted to wandering the streets of Northumberland. He even considered buying a tent before the team at Avondale House were able to provide him with a subsidized, self-contained flat. Keith received the keys within an hour of turning up to meet the centre manager. He recalls: “You still see kids in the City Centre of Newcastle wearing combat kit you know. You can tell they’ve served their time, and they’re sitting on street corners begging for the odd quid, but yeah that could so easily have been me.”
Stuart, formerly of The Rifles
A relatively young veteran, Stuart, served as a sniper with The Rifles for 13 years. He deployed on operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan before being medically discharged and diagnosed with PTSD in 2014. During a turbulent post-Army period, Stuart struggled with substance abuse issues and spent time in hospital before moving into Avondale House. Here, he receives help in dealing with day-to-day issues, as well as being given plenty of opportunities to build on his CV and prepare for interviews. Stuart even got involved in a BBC documentary series with Alex Polizzi, a programme that explored the issue of getting Britain’s unemployed veterans back into work. “I do enjoy living here…You just get help and support. I’ve had a few jobs now and I’ve had to do lots of stuff with emails. I couldn’t use a computer…you get a lot of support.”
John, formerly of The Royal Artillery
Another tenant at Launchpad is John. Following a 9 year stint in The Royal Artillery, including 3 years in the Reserves, John was facing the prospect of spending a night on the streets before Launchpad gave him a lifeline: a flat, now furnished with household goods that The Soldiers’ Charity was able to fund. Having access to on-site support in Launchpad’s house has given John the confidence to forge a new career path and get back on his feet again. He is now looking forward to completing his qualifications to become a Paramedic. John reflects on the impact of having a financial grant to cover the costs of furniture upon his arrival at Launchpad:
“Without the grant, I wouldn’t be able to move forward when I leave here…it’s amazing what you do. With your help, I’ve managed to get myself sorted.”
Despite being in operation for less than three years, Launchpad won the ‘Working Together’ category at the 2016 Soldiering On Awards, sponsored by the Forces in Mind Trust; recognising its innovative approach to partnership working. ABF The Soldiers’ Charity has provided substantial funding towards the operational costs of Launchpad and has also funded individual grants towards the purchase of essential household goods.
To find out more about Launchpad or to donate to them, visit www.afvg.co.uk/launchpad/donate