Hello everyone, a lot has happened since my last update so I thought it was timely to give you an overview of how Launchpad is operating throughout the pandemic.

It’s almost a year since the Government announced the first national lockdown and here we are in 2021, and in our third national one, still trying to contain this awful virus. There is some glimmer of hope with the roll out of the vaccine programme and we must all do our part to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Like many other organisations and charities up and down the country, the effect of the pandemic has had a huge impact on our operations, not to mention our residents and staff.

Launchpad provides accommodation and a wide range of support for up to 80 residents to help them make a successful transition to civilian life.

The communal areas at both our houses in Liverpool and Newcastle-upon-Tyne have been closed and residents have been advised to following distancing rules and those who are most vulnerable, have been encouraged to self-isolate in their flats.

We have reduced the numbers of staff on duty during lockdown periods in both houses to protect the health and wellbeing of our colleagues. During lockdown, there has been no face-to-face contact with partners and each other unless in the case of an emergency.

Naturally, services to residents and activities we arrange for them, have also been reduced. Prior to Covid-19, residents could access services face-to-face but since lockdown, waiting lists have increased and, at best, most of our partners and providers have only been offering services via telephone or video.

Many of the residents living in our houses have mental health issues, ranging from anxiety to service and non-service-related PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Some need help with addictions to alcohol and drugs.

Since Covid-19, the health and wellbeing of some of our residents has deteriorated. For example, one resident who has bi-polar disorder disappeared in the middle of lockdown after his health worsened when his face-to-face support stopped. Another resident experienced a significant breakdown and our staff had to involve Crisis support. He is now recovering with our help, but only narrowly avoided being sectioned.

As restrictions looked like they were starting to ease, staff and residents at both houses were dealt another blow following the introduction of a new Covid tiered system. In October, Liverpool was placed under tier 3 restrictions, or the ‘very high alert’ level and then Newcastle followed just after Christmas when placed into tier 4 ‘stay at home’.

Despite these challenges and difficult times, our staff have done a fantastic job to help, and continue to support, our residents when they needed us but at the same time, thinking about their own health and safety.

As a charity, we rely on personal and corporate donations and while the former has reduced significantly, we have received some very generous cash donations from corporate organisations and other charities to ensure we raise sufficient funding to be able to continue to deliver the excellent service we do.

During lockdown, we partnered with Bequeathed to set up an online free will service for anyone who would like to create a legacy and consider leaving a gift to Launchpad.

We have also secured funding through the B&Q Foundation which will enable us to extend our communal kitchen facility at Speke House and our residents living at Avondale House are looking forward to going fishing and have set up a cycling club to keep fit and improve their mental health and wellbeing.

It has been humbling to see Launchpad residents helping out in their local communities by delivering essential supplies to vulnerable and isolated families. We also welcomed Ann Rees and Kate Riley, both specialist caseworkers, to work with residents to overcome mental health, gambling, drug and alcohol issues and to help move them on to stable and independent lives.

It always gives staff and trustees great pleasure to see residents positively moving on by securing their own accommodation and jobs. The charity’s purpose is to help veterans do just that, move on into a more successful life, and while the rate of doing this has fallen due to the pandemic, our veterans are still obtaining jobs and moving on to long-term accommodation. We are fast approaching a significant landmark – welcoming the 500th resident at Launchpad since our inception in 2013.  It is too high a figure in some respects, but then we are proud to have been around to help those who needed the charity’s support.

With the Covid vaccinations in sight, I am hoping we’ll be able to get our lives back to some sort of normality this year. In the meantime, stay safe and thank you for your continued support.

David Shaw
CEO and co-founder of Launchpad