Launchpad’s Company Secretary, Mandy Crompton has set herself a hair raising challenge by shaving her hair to raise money and awareness of two charities close to her heart.

Like the rest of the country, Mandy who lives in Tayvallich on the West Coast of Scotland, has been in lockdown since mid-March and has not been able to get to the hairdressers for her regular style and cut.

“I religiously go to the hairdressers every 4-5 weeks and managed a visit just before lockdown, but that was 10 weeks ago now and due to current restrictions, particularly here in Scotland, hairdressers are not likely to open for some weeks” said Mandy.

“People who know me well will be aware that I hate my short hair to become so heavy it goes flat on top. I’ve tried to cut it myself but it is tricky the longer it gets so I have decided to take the plunge and just shave it all off to raise money for two charities that are close to me.”

Mandy has set a challenge of raising £5,000, which will be equally split between veterans’ charity Launchpad, the charity she works for, and Cancer Research UK.

Mandy has been a keen supporter of Cancer Research ever since she was diagnosed with breast cancer and received treatment for in 2011. With clinical trials postponed due to Covid-19, Cancer Research anticipates a drop in fundraising and donations by up to 25%.

This is a familiar situation for other charities including Launchpad, which provides accommodation and targeted support to homeless veterans and helps them to stabilise their lives and make a successful transition from military to civilian life.

Mandy has set up a fundraising page on Just Giving and is hoping family, friends, business colleagues and her wider connections within the military will sponsor her for this worthwhile cause and help her to achieve her target.

The actual event will take place in her garden on Saturday, 13 June, which will be 12 weeks since lockdown and she will video the event live.

Mandy continued:

“This is a big challenge for me but I have decided to take drastic steps to raise money for these two wonderful charities. I’ve seen at first-hand, the impact of the service Launchpad provides to help homeless veterans’ transition and has helped over 460 veterans since 2013.

“Since I was diagnosed, I have always been a keen supporter of Cancer Research as a way of saying thank you for helping me when I needed it most. I have participated in their Race for Life events and I am a regular donor. These are difficult times, especially for the charity sector so I felt I wanted to give something back to help them. I would really appreciate your support – every little helps me to achieve my target.”

To sponsor Mandy, you can donate on her Just Giving page at: www.justgiving.com/campaign/lockdownbadhairday

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Launchpad has welcomed a new funding grant of £16,500 from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust (AFCFT) to contribute towards additional costs incurred as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funding has been awarded from the ‘Veterans Should Not Be Forgotten’ (VSNBF) programme, which provides grants of up to £20,000 to support six-month projects. The projects must focus on supporting veterans who are isolated and unable to access services or have limited social contact during the period of self-isolation and restrictions relating to the pandemic.

Launchpad provides accommodation and targeted support, with the assistance of specialist providers, to help homeless veterans stabilise their lives and make a successful transition from military to civilian life.

The charity has two projects, one in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and another in Liverpool accommodating up to 80 veteran residents at any one time. Veterans can stay for two years, but most stay around 12 months.

Covid-19 has affected residents very hard. All are vulnerable with at least a third of veterans considered to have serious underlying health issues. Most of those are over 50 so even though lockdown has started to ease, they will still have to continue to isolate long after general lockdown is lifted.

Earlier this month, Launchpad secured a grant of almost £10,000 from the National Lottery Fund, which has contributed towards purchasing ten video-enabled tablets, staffing costs and other necessary activity.

Funding from the VSNBF will be used to purchase a further 20 video-enabled tablets and loaned to Launchpad’s most vulnerable veterans to ensure staff maintain face-to-face contact. The funding will also contribute towards 40% of the deputy managers salary for each house, who will make contact with every vulnerable veteran each day, to check on their wellbeing, take shopping and medicine orders and help isolating veterans access remote support for their health from a range of support partners including the NHS.

David Shaw, CEO and Co-founder of Launchpad, said:

“Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have had to radically change our way of life. This has been particularly difficult for those who are vulnerable, including our veteran residents.

“Our staff have adapted to ensure we continue to support our residents during these very challenging times. The lockdown has also impacted on the ability to fundraise and volunteer, which has had a significant impact on our contributions.

“Like all charities, we rely on personal and corporate donations, and in these very difficult and challenging times, our ability to secure grants such as this is a significant benefit. We are very grateful to the AFCFT for this grant, which will enable us to continue to support our most vulnerable residents over the next six months.”

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Despite tackling their own mental health problems, some of Launchpad’s veteran residents have been helping each other and giving back to their local communities by carrying out acts of kindness during the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Residents have been giving up their own time to volunteer with community projects to help those in need, particularly vulnerable and local isolated people during lockdown.

This week’s Mental Health Awareness Week raises awareness and the importance of supporting people with mental health. Organised by the Mental Health Foundation, the week-long campaign focuses on specific themes. Since it was launched in 2001, they have raised awareness on topics such as body image, stress and relationships.

This year’s theme is kindness and is a response to the Coronavirus outbreak, which is having a big impact on people’s mental health.

Many of the residents living at Launchpad’s Avondale House in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Speke House in Liverpool have mental health issues, ranging from anxiety to service and non-service-related PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Launchpad provides accommodation and targeted support, with the assistance of specialist providers, to help homeless veterans stabilise their lives and make a successful transition from military to civilian life.

Residents at both houses also participate in a programme of activities to improve their mental health and wellbeing such as mindfulness, arts projects, music lessons and outdoor sports.

Those [residents] who feel they are ready to give back to communities have also volunteered to re-engage as part of their transition journey.

Drew who lives at Launchpad’s Avondale House in Byker, served nine years in The Parachute Regiment and has been volunteering to help Family Gateway to deliver food parcels such as home cooked meals and is also part of Team Rubicon assisting in mortuary duties. By volunteering with Team Rubicon, is had given him a renewed sense of purpose and an opportunity to use the skills and experiences he has learned to benefit others.

Another resident, Michael who lives at Speke House in Liverpool, has volunteered to get essential food supplies for his fellow residents. Michael completed ten years in Army Catering Corps and served tours of Northern Ireland and Cyprus. He has been helping other residents, particularly those who have been self-isolating, ensuring they are safe and well during lockdown.

David Shaw, CEO and Co-founder of Launchpad, said:

“Many of our resident veterans have mental health challenges and we always try to give them the support they need. We talk to them, we listen, we signpost them to our partners who are qualified to help with their health and welfare.

“Mental health awareness is all around us 24/7 – we are always there to support our residents and I think Mental Health Awareness Week should be celebrated; it is an opportunity to reassure those who may be experiencing mental health issues, that there is always someone there to talk to and help them.

“It is fitting that this years’ theme is kindness. We’ve seen a lot of that recently, particularly during the lockdown where people have come together and supported one another, helping those who need it most. Despite their own mental health issues, I was delighted to hear that Drew and Michael have volunteered to give back to their local communities. Others are gardening and cooking to help their community. It is heartening to see that the veterans have risen to the challenges brought about by the pandemic.”

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The Sun newspaper awards £20K to veterans’ charity Launchpad, as part of a £1m giveaway.

A readers’ fund was set up to mark its 50th birthday year, providing grants between £2,000 up to £20,000 each to small grassroots charities, which were nominated by readers.

Veterans’ charity, Launchpad was one of thousands of charities nominated and has been successfully selected to receive the maximum grant of £20,000 after being carefully considered by a panel of judges.

Launchpad provides accommodation and targeted support, with the assistance of specialist providers, to help homeless veterans stabilise their lives and make a successful transition from military to civilian life.

In 2018, the University of York found there were 3,500 homeless veterans in the UK, many living on the streets. Around 85% of veterans who come to live at Launchpad are homeless and are supported for up to two years (longer if necessary).

The charity accommodates up to 80 resident veterans from across the UK at any one time. Over 460 veterans have already benefited from the charity since it was established in 2013. 42% of residents left Launchpad with jobs and 69% successfully moved on to settled accommodation, either living independently, reunited with family or with the support they needed.

These are very difficult times for everyone and the Coronavirus is having a devastating impact on charities, who rely on fundraising initiatives, many of which have either been cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic.

This grant will be used to contribute towards the running costs at one of Launchpad’s houses in Newcastle upon Tyne and to support seven homeless veterans who would otherwise have ended up living on the street, homeless and hungry.

Homeless veterans are referred to Launchpad through a network of UK military charities, local authorities and housing partners. For most, Launchpad is often the first safe place they’ve slept for in months, even years. Staff work with residents to understand their needs and develop a tailored support package that will help them on the road to successfully transition back to civvy street.

Lee sitting at home on setteeOne resident who has benefitted from Launchpad’s support is Lee Foster who lives at Avondale House in Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne. Lee served 12 years in the Queens Regiment of the British Army and completed tours of Northern Ireland and Cyprus. He moved into Launchpad in 2018 and hasn’t looked back.

He said: “Launchpad saved me. It has given me a roof over my head – somewhere safe and secure to live, I cannot thank them enough. Schemes like this that help homeless veterans are a godsend. The support has given me confidence and has built me back up.”

David Shaw, CEO and Co-founder of Launchpad, commented: “This is wonderful news and thank you to the judges for agreeing to donate the full amount to helping our veteran residents. These are very challenging times for all charities so grants like this are a huge relief. It means we can continue to improve our facilities and provide the dedicated support our current residents need during this pandemic and beyond.”

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Veterans’ charity, Launchpad has received a welcome boost of almost £10,000 from the National Lottery Fund to provide emergency support to its residents during the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the country is in lockdown and the Government has encouraged people to self-isolate, these are difficult times for the 80 veteran residents, many of whom are already vulnerable and struggling with their mental health and wellbeing.

Launchpad provides accommodation and support to help homeless veterans stabilise their lives and make a successful transition from military to civilian life. The charity has two houses: Speke House in Liverpool accommodating 48 residents in self-contained flats and Avondale House in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which comprises 32 self-contained one-bedroom flats.

The funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, will contribute towards staffing costs, IT equipment and other necessary activity.

While most residents are self-isolating, the life they have become accustomed to has almost been cut off. The communal areas within the houses are closed so they have to stay in their flats to self-isolate, except for daily exercise and essential shopping. Visible staffing has also been reduced with only one member of staff on site and there is no face-to-face contact with partners and each other except in an emergency; however, all staff are involved in planning post-pandemic activity and in supporting the veterans remotely

Each house would normally have four support staff on-site and the large, open-plan communal areas are where the veterans receive peer support but due to Covid-19, restrictions have been put in place.

The funding will contribute towards support with the costs of the two members of staff who are maintaining daily contact with the most vulnerable residents. Laptop computers will be provided to staff working remotely and tablets will be purchased for residents who are most seriously affected to encourage contact and ensure they are maintaining personal hygiene, cooking and cleaning.

Some residents don’t have televisions in their flats so those will be purchased and provided to residents with no entertainment during the lockdown period.

David Shaw, CEO and Founder of Launchpad, commented: “These are very challenging times for everyone including our residents, many of whom are very vulnerable. Adapting to a different way of life and routine has had an initial detrimental effect on their mental health. Our staff are contacting residents daily to check on their wellbeing and to ensure we all get through this strange period in good heart.

“We are very grateful to The National Lottery Community Fund Awards for All for providing us with this grant, which will enable us to invest in equipment and encourage regular contact and support to residents. Although they [residents] have told us video contact and phone contact is not as good as being together, they still agree that it is much better than total isolation.

“I am also very proud of two of our longer-term residents who are volunteering for the NHS and for a local charity.”

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Since the UK went into lockdown on Monday 23 March, our number one priority has been to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and protect staff and residents at both our houses in Liverpool and Newcastle.

These are unprecedented times for everyone, including our residents who are vulnerable and struggle with their mental health and wellbeing.

While most residents are self-isolating, the life they have become accustomed to has almost been cut off. The communal areas within both houses are closed, so they have been encouraged to stay in their flats to self-isolate, except for daily exercise and essential shopping.

Staffing has also been reduced with only one member of staff on site and there is no face-to-face contact with partners and each other except in emergency. Staff have been busy contacting residents daily to check on their wellbeing. Funding partners have provided telephone support to some of the residents, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

We asked residents how they have been feeling during lockdown:

“I miss socialising with my friends. I’m pretty much staying focussed and I’ve even tried something I’ve never tried before by growing vegetables in pots on my balcony. I’m really looking forward to the pubs re-opening so I can meet up with my mates again.”

“My biggest challenge is not being able to see my son. I text his mum everyday to see how he is and I’m trying to arrange a video call. I’m looking forward to seeing him again after lockdown and having a bit more freedom so we can go out and do some activities.”

“I’ve been feeling a little bit lonely, sometimes bored. A little bit depressed but the biggest challenge has not being able to make contact with my children and other members of my family. To keep focussed, I’ve been exercising, reading, watching TV, cooking and making my own book.”

Our Trustees and managers continue to have regular updates and, following Government guidance, we are doing all we can to reassure residents and minimise any risks.

Like many organisations and charities, we are planning for the future and how that may look. We don’t know when the lockdown restrictions will be lifted but we will continue to follow Government guidelines and as life slowly gets back to normal, we will support our residents to help them find employment and independent living opportunities.

These are difficult times, especially for charities like ourselves who rely on personal and corporate donations and fundraising initiatives.

We still very much welcome donations and support in kind during this time to help us to continue to provide the service we do.

We are very grateful to the organisations that have already shown their kindness and generosity to our veteran residents during this time. Emmanuel Global Network UK (Ltd) has donated £600 and provided food parcels for all 29 residents living at Avondale House and we have received £10,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund to contribute towards staffing costs, IT equipment for staff to work remotely and to residents in their flats to encourage contact.

We are also very proud of our residents who are stepping up and volunteering to help the NHS and local charities by helping to deliver essential supplies to vulnerable and isolated families. It is great to see them giving back to their local communities.

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