Launchpad’s drop-in service achieves RAN Quality Standard

Launchpad has been awarded the Reading Advice Network (RAN) Quality Standard – meaning the information and advice we offer at our drop-in service meets the very highest standards.

RAN is an umbrella organisation and independent charity, which promotes excellence in the delivery of information and advice to the public. The RAN Quality Standard accreditation is awarded to organisations following a thorough assessment and enables partner agencies, funders and clients to be confident that an organisation is providing a high-quality service to the people who come to them for help.

Launchpad’s drop-in service is available Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10.00am to 2.00pm at Launchpad’s office, and is for anyone who needs housing or homelessness-related information and guidance. You don’t need to be referred or book a time; we ask people to simply come along during the drop-in service’s opening times and speak to one of our friendly, trained team.

The RAN Quality Standard assessment process for our drop-in service  involved a comprehensive self-assessment in line with the Quality Standard booklet, a discussion with a RAN independent assessor to talk through questions that emerged from the self-assessment and a visit by a RAN independent assessor. Areas that were assessed include the drop-in service complaints procedure, privacy policy, accurate record-keeping and appropriate signposting.

Janine Breakspear, Floating Support Team Leader at Launchpad and manager of the charity’s drop-in service, said: “The staff and volunteers at Launchpad always strive to offer the absolute best service to everyone who comes through our doors, and we are so pleased to be recognised for the high-quality support we provide at drop-in.

“Sometimes people who don’t have a stable place to live or are worried about losing their home have nowhere to turn – which is why drop-in exists. We provide vital information and guidance to help people get back on their feet. This could be help with budgeting so someone is able to pay their rent, assistance with knowing your rights when it comes to landlords or signposting to substance misuse services.

“The accreditation will give members of the public reassurance that our service is the best place to come for housing-related support and help.”

Launchpad was awarded RAN Quality Standard certificate earlier this week, and will now use the RAN Quality Standard logo and be added to our list of RAN Quality Standard Holders – which include Age UK Reading, Reading Mencap and Dingley’s Promise.

University College of Estate Management (UCEM) hold sustainable housing solutions event in aid of Launchpad

University College of Estate Management (UCEM) is hosting ‘Housing for Good’ at Reading Town Hall in September as part of its centenary activity – and the event will be in aid of Launchpad.

‘Housing for Good’ will explore innovate ideas for creating long-term sustainable housing solutions in the Thames Valley, and will include a panel discussion and Q&A with Reading East MP, Matt Rodda, Bioregional Chief Executive, Sue Riddlestone OBE, and Haslams Estate Agents Managing Director, Steve Woodford.

Following the panel discussion, there will be a champagne and canape reception for guests who will then be invited to view the UCEM exhibition at the adjacent Reading Museum. The exhibition showcases previously unexplored heritage including UCEM’s role in educating British Prisoners of War and members of the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War.

UCEM Deputy Principal, Jane Fawkes, said: “I’m looking forward to our panel and the local community coming together to explore future housing solutions for the Thames Valley. The provision of adequate housing for a growing populace is one of the most crucial, global issues we are confronting and by bringing together a panel representing politics, sustainability and housing, I’m hoping we will be able to provide some answers and pertinent questions which will shape the future of the Thames Valley as we know it.

“UCEM has now been based in Reading for nearly half a century so, on the occasion of our centenary, we wanted to give something back to our hometown through this event. Involving our charity partner, Launchpad, which does such excellent work in preventing homelessness in the town, in the event is another way of giving back and acknowledging those who work so hard to make Reading a great place to live.”

Launchpad CEO, Ian Caren, added: “The severe lack of high-quality, affordable housing in Reading is one of the major contributory factors to the town’s high rates of homelessness. I am delighted that UCEM, as part of its centenary celebrations, is drawing attention to this issue with its conference’s topic, Housing for Good.

“Launchpad was established 39 years ago by students at Reading University concerned at the lack of support for the homeless who set up a soup kitchen in response. It now provides homes for over 100 single people and families in housing need; a drop-in service to provide support and information to those at risk of losing their homes; and a wide range of therapeutic activities to rebuild the lives of those whose lives are so affectedby homelessness. As a charity, we rely on the goodwill of the people and organisations of Reading to fund our vital work. I would like to personally thank UCEM for its support over the years.”

The evening event, which is free to attend, takes place on Thursday 19 September. For more information and to register your attendance, visit ucem.ac.uk/housingforgood

Berkshire’s premier shopping destination supports Launchpad’s Big Sleep Out

We are pleased to announce that The Oracle, Berkshire’s premier shopping and dining destination, is kindly sponsoring Launchpad’s Big Sleep Out!

The Oracle – which opened in 1999 and contains 90 shops, over 20 restaurants, cafes and bars and a cinema – will be helping the charity reach the £40,000 fundraising target for the event.

The shopping centre, Launchpad and Big Sleep Out’s new location already have interesting links. The Holy Brook, a channel of the River Kennet, runs alongside Reading Abbey Ruins – and was used as a water supply by monks who worked at the abbey as early as the 1100s.  From the Grade I listed ruin, the brook runs around the iconic Blade, under Broad Street and under The Oracle shopping centre and car park. The brook can still be seen from the Minster street entrance of The Oracle today and is the reason the shopping centre’s car park is named ‘Holy Brook Car Park’.

The Oracle also takes its name from the 17th century Oracle workhouse built on the same site by funds from a local man John Kendrick, an English cloth merchant and patron of the towns of Reading and Newbury in Berkshire. The Oracle workhouse was a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment, not unlike Launchpad’s mission to prevent homelessness in Reading today.

Big Sleep Out will see people swap their bed for a sleeping bag and cardboard box for the night at Reading Abbey Ruins on World Homeless Day, Thursday 10 October – so Launchpad can continue providing vital information and support for people who don’t have a stable place to live or are at risk of losing their home in Reading. The charity prevents homelessness by providing drop-in, legal advice and floating support services to help people overcome housing-related challenges before they get worse.

Big Sleep Out doesn’t aim to replicate homelessness – participants sleep out for just one night and the evening will include entertainment, food and some special guests. But it does offers a brief insight into some of the things you might face if you are street homeless, such as cold temperatures, an uncomfortable bed and limited sleep.

Andy Briggs, General Manager of The Oracle, said: “I’m thrilled that The Oracle is sponsoring Launchpad’s Big Sleep Out and to personally be taking part in this year’s charity event. The Big Sleep Out will be tough, however sleeping this way for one night doesn’t come close to those that have to sleep this way on a regular basis. By sponsoring the Big Sleep Out, we at The Oracle hope that we can help to raise money that will help those that need it most.”

Find out more about Big Sleep Out and book your place by visiting: www.launchpadreading.org.uk/bigsleepout 

Volunteers’ Week: Launchpad volunteers give over 7,200 hours of their time to help prevent homeless

It’s Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) and we are celebrating Launchpad’s dedicated, talented and hardworking team of volunteers – who have a multitude of different skills and experience, and collectively gave an impressive 7,207 hours of their time last year to prevent homelessness in Reading.

Launchpad is lucky enough to have 130 volunteers who work closely with the charity’s 50 paid members of staff, and a third of volunteers work directly with clients. There are a wide range of volunteering roles across the organisation, which include providing housing and homelessness-related information and support at our drop-in service; running classes in sewing, art and gardening; helping clients learn how to use computers and search for jobs; and working in HR, admin and marketing. Our counselling service is run by four volunteer qualified counsellors, who offer clients a safe place to talk through their problems and an opportunity to tackle deep-rooted issues.

As part of our work to prevent street homelessness and partner with organisations across Reading to help those in housing need, Launchpad also provides two volunteers for each Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) night. If the Met Office forecasts that temperatures will drop below -1°C for three or more consecutive nights,  SWEP is activated and rough sleepers have access to an emergency bed at The Salvation Army hostel in central Reading. Our volunteers welcome people off the streets, and get them a hot drink and some food. We also provide beds, sleeping bags, towels and other resources whenever SWEP is activated.

Most of our volunteers commit to supporting us for six months, which can be of huge benefit to our clients who often have chaotic lives and come to depend on the same friendly face they are used to. Other volunteers support us on a more ad hoc basis and get involved by offering vital support at our fundraising events, whether that’s cheering on Launchpad runners during the Royal Berks 10K or marshalling at the Reading Half Marathon, looking after the registration desk at our Big Sleep Out, or giving talks about our work to local groups.

Sharon Mullis, Volunteering Team Leader at Launchpad, recruits and manages the volunteering team, along with her team. She said: “Launchpad simply couldn’t do the work we do to prevent homelessness in Reading without our volunteers. Our incredibly hardworking team of volunteers gave the charity 600 hours last month alone – which saves us a huge amount of money and means we are able to support even more people who don’t have a stable place to live or are at risk of losing their home in Reading.

“The volunteering team has really grown at Launchpad too. Just five years ago in 2014, we had 59 volunteers so we’ve more than doubled the team. I think more people are interested in giving their time to good causes than ever before and with lots of focus on the housing crisis in the media, and the increasing number of people facing homelessness, people are keen to do something to help.

“The great thing about volunteering is that anyone can do it – our volunteers range in age from 19-70 years old and bring all sorts of backgrounds, skills and experience with them. Volunteering doesn’t just have huge benefits for the charity either, there’s an awful lot in it for volunteers too. It’s incredibly rewarding, you feel like you’re part of something special, you meet lots of new and interesting people, and you can develop new skills and use the opportunity to build confidence. Many volunteers have gone onto to exciting new careers after being with Launchpad.”

Annabel has been volunteering for Launchpad for five years in a variety of roles including admin support, helping in arts and crafts sessions and putting together the volunteer newsletter. She said, “I don’t know if there’s another charity that is as good with their volunteers as Launchpad. Sharon and her team have been incredibly supportive – they are keen to help volunteers develop their skills, and if you want to do more, they are open to that. They make you feel appreciated and needed, and if you need any help or advice, they’re there. All the while I’ve got the time and enjoy it, I will continue volunteering – I hope to carry on volunteering for the rest of my life.”

You can read more about Sharon and our volunteers on our staff and volunteers page. If you’d like to enquire about volunteering for Launchpad, please email volunteers@launchpadreading.org.uk or telephone 0118 950 7656 and select option 4.