New project offers life-changing financial management skills

Launchpad has launched Financial Skills for Independence – a new programme to arm clients with life-changing financial management skills, thanks to grants from Nationwide and NatWest.

Financial Skills for Independence is for clients who are due to leave the service after a period of support and would benefit from learning how to avoid financial difficulties, sustain a tenancy and remain independent. When it comes to dealing with finances, for example, it may be best to become familiar with what is a secured credit card, how to build a credit score or even how to manage finances better. There is so much to learn when it comes to money management. Thinking about this allows people to plan in advance in terms of their finances and hopefully not find themselves in a situation where it is a struggle.

The programme, which we began rolling out in March, consists of four hours of workshops a week, held over eight weeks, and covers topics such as debt management, budgeting and claiming benefits.

Aimee Rahman, Launchpad’s Housing Team Leader, is heading up the Financial Skills for Independence programme and explains why the project is so important: “The majority of our clients come to Launchpad because they have nowhere else to turn to for support. We work with them to address the issues that are having an impact on their housing situation and get them back on track. But once our clients leave Launchpad, we’re finding they can have difficulties understanding and managing finances, which leaves them at risk.

“For example, most of our clients don’t know how to set up council tax, prioritise their debts or which benefits they’re entitled to. Our new project will teach them to do all of this and also help them to access education and employment, manage work and study at the same time, and understand their rights as a tenant. Launchpad is a community, and this project allows our former clients to come back for additional support in an environment they are familiar with, so they don’t feel like they are on their own.”

The project has been funded by grants from Nationwide Community Grants and NatWest’s Skills & Opportunities Fund, following a competition which asked the public to vote on a project they believed to be the most beneficial for the community.

The first workshops, which took place throughout March and April, focused on helping clients to understand Universal Credit, make changes to their Universal Credit journals and manage their claims. The programme is available to all Launchpad clients from our supported housing and floating support services, and will be made available to drop-in clients in the near future.

Big Sleep Out at Reading Abbey Ruins

We are thrilled to announce that booking has now officially opened for this year’s Big Sleep Out, which is taking place on World Homeless Day, Thursday 10 October, and in a brand new location – the iconic and historic Reading Abbey Ruins!

We’d love you to join us and brave the outdoors for the night so people facing homelessness in Reading don’t have to. It will be an event to remember with entertainment, yummy food and some very special guests, and we’ll be announcing more exciting plans over the coming months.

Swapping your bed for a sleeping bag and cardboard box for the night at the Big Sleep Out doesn’t aim to replicate homelessness but it does offer a brief insight into some of the things you might face if you’re sleeping rough – such as cold temperatures, an uncomfortable bed and limited sleep. And every penny you raise will help us continue to prevent homelessness in Reading.

Ian Caren, Chief Executive of Launchpad, said about the event, “Big Sleep Out is one of the biggest fundraising events in Launchpad’s calendar and it’s set to get even bigger. Reading Abbey Ruins is an iconic landmark for the town and will make a brilliant new location for hundreds of people to sleep out, mark World Homeless Day and raise vital funds for the charity.

“No one should have to endure sleeping on the streets, which is why Launchpad helps vulnerable people in Reading tackle their housing-related problems, obtain and sustain a long-term home and lead full and independent lives. It’s with events like Big Sleep Out and the generosity of our supporters that we are able to continue our work to prevent homelessness.”

Don’t delay – there are limited spaces and early bird tickets are only available until the end of May. Find out more about the Big Sleep Out or book your place today!

If you have any questions about Launchpad’s services or the Big Sleep Out email us at or call us on 0118 929 1121.



Launchpad mourns the loss of first Patron, The Honourable Mrs Mary Bayliss CVO JP DL

Following the very sad news that our Patron, The Honourable Mrs Mary Bayliss CVO JP DL, passed away last week, Ian Caren, Chief Executive of Launchpad, said:

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of The Honourable Mrs Mary Bayliss. Mary was the charity’s very first Patron and tirelessly supported Launchpad for over nine years. She was passionate about helping vulnerable and disadvantaged people in Reading, and regularly met with Launchpad’s clients and staff to understand the issues affecting people facing homelessness, and hear about the charity’s latest projects.

“We were also honoured to welcome Mary to our Carols by Candlelight service every year. I am so very grateful for the kindness and support she showed Launchpad throughout her patronage, and she will be missed by everyone at the charity. We send our sincere condolences to Mary’s family at this incredibly sad time.”

Launchpad highlights stark statistics to mark International Women’s Day

Reading charity Launchpad is highlighting the stark statistics on women who are homeless to mark International Women’s Day, Friday 8 March 2019.

Female staff, volunteers and supporters of the charity gathered to raise awareness of the very significant needs of homeless women, by holding up boards displaying sobering figures:

  • It is estimated that there are 68,000 women in the UK who are sleeping on the streets, or in temporary accommodation and emergency shelters.
  • 1 in 10 women fleeing domestic violence are forced to sleep rough; almost half of these women have to sofa surf, many with children.
  • 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted while sleeping rough.
  • The average age of death for homeless women is 43.

Su Hamblyn, Deputy Chief Executive at Launchpad said: “These disturbing figures are the reality for women who are homeless. We want to raise awareness of the impact homelessness has on women and remove the stigma so often attached to female homelessness. These women need our help.

“At Launchpad we offer services to help both men and women alike. Women come to us for all sorts of reasons. We see many who are struggling after a relationship breakdown or trauma after losing access to their children, and single mums who have financial issues managing the family budget. Some are victims of domestic violence or exploitation and are fleeing another area to try to rebuild their lives.

“Others have lost their jobs and need support gaining employment. Homelessness is not just a young person’s issue. We see older women who have lost their partners, are isolated and are trying to manage their finances which they have never done before. Some have mental  health issues and learning difficulties. The issues are complex but very specific and unique
to each individual, and can happen to anyone. These statistics are not just numbers, they represent real women, women like Angela.”

Angela, an employed single mum, had her benefits cut when she moved to Universal Credit. With her children in further education, she was no longer entitled to Child Benefit, reducing her income by a third. The bailiffs were at her door, her health was suffering and she was about to lose her home due to rent arrears that were mounting monthly. To complicate matters, she had an amphetamine addiction that had been hidden for over 40 years. Her life was falling apart. Angela came to Launchpad’s drop in centre with a carrier bag full of bills. Staff listened to her story and contacted her landlord and the bailiffs to hold off on any action while they found support to address her debts. They helped Angela to complete an income and
expenditure form in order to arrange repayment of her debts in affordable amounts. They also worked with her GP to get her support from Iris, a local drug and alcohol service, to address her drug use and plan her recovery.

“Launchpad saved my life and that is the only way I can express how I feel” said Angela. “The day I walked into Launchpad, I was in a really bad way and I didn’t think anyone could help me. The staff there spent four hours sorting out all my paperwork out. I felt so much better when I came out.

“Since that day Wendy has been my key worker at Launchpad and has helped me with lots of things that I couldn’t have done without her. I want to thank everyone at Launchpad for making me feel so welcome when I walked in their door. A special thank you to Wendy for everything, I would recommend Launchpad to the world.”

Launchpad’s Floating Support service helps people who are at risk of losing their home and includes the drop in service that Angela used. In the past year, the service has helped 311 clients; 151 were women (48 per cent). The charity also offers a Supported Housing service which provides temporary
accommodation for those that need it, along with a tailored support plan to help them get their life back on track. In the past year, 190 clients accessed the service; 39 were women (20 per cent).

Su continues: “The positive news is that our stats show that women are approaching us and that we are able to help them. What we are finding is that women tell other women about Launchpad who then come to our drop in service for support. This service is for anyone in Reading who needs homelessness related advice and enables us to offer early intervention before their circumstances deteriorate.

“This was crucial for Angela, as our intervention meant she kept her home and we were able to support her through very difficult times. She has managed to sustain her work and parenting duties, as well as supporting her older children with her grandchildren’s needs. She is doing remarkably well.”

Launchpad offers support in a variety of different ways, helping clients to access support services that they aren’t always aware of, or taking part in its Education, Training and Employment (ETE) service which helps them to find jobs and courses, and with CV writing and interview techniques. The charity also offers a huge array of classes and activities including French, literacy and numeracy, IT skills, photography, arts and crafts, gardening,
climbing and cookery.

Su continues: “The aim is to help our clients regain their confidence, teach them new skills, help them into employment and enable them to meet other people, build friendships and reduce isolation. Our ultimate goal is to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place and to ensure everyone has a place that they can call home.

“On International Women’s Day, please join us in raising awareness of the struggles homeless women face and help us to improve these shocking statistics.”


Sir John Madejski and Danyl Johnson call for Reading to support homeless charity’s pancake race of the year

Sir John Madejski and former X-Factor star Danyl Johnson will be showing their support at Launchpad’s Pancake Race in Reading this year.

Over 100 people have signed up to take part in the annual race which takes place on Broad Street on Shrove Tuesday, 5 March 2019.

The event which is in its 22nd year will see teams from local businesses run relay races in fancy dress, flipping pancakes as they go. Those taking part include teams from Metrobank, the Probation Service, Bride to Be, Reading Football Club and the University School of Law.

The winning team will be presented with the coveted frying pan trophy, while awards are malso given for the ‘Best Dressed’ and ‘Team Spirit’.
Sir John Madejski said: “The incredible work that Launchpad does in rehousing the homeless and rehabilitating is very worthy and the charity deserves all the help that the wonderful people of Reading can give.”

Danyl Johnson added: “The Pancake Race is a great bit of flipping fun, raising awareness for a wonderful charity and making a difference to Reading’s homeless. I would be a lemon to miss it.”

The event, which is run by local charity Launchpad, aims to bring the community together while raising funds to help and support homeless people in Reading.

Ian Caren, Launchpad’s Chief Executive, said: “At Launchpad, we help homeless people to rebuild their lives by teaching them skills, helping them to gain employment and ultimately find a home. Our success is largely down to the support from the Reading community who provide their time through volunteering, donations and fundraising. We can’t thank them enough.

“Every year we invite the community to get together for our Pancake Race which really is a celebration of the community; and we really have a great sense of community spirit here in Reading. We are absolutely delighted to have the support of our patrons Sir John Madejski and Danyl Johnson and are so grateful for their continued support.”

There are only a handful of places left – any businesses wanting to take part can secure their spot by visiting Simply download an application form and return to Launchpad along with a payment of £50 by Tuesday 26 February 2019.

Launchpad wins ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Community’ award

Launchpad has won a prestigious award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Community’. The award was presented at the annual Thames Valley Business and Community Award ceremony, which saw over 320 nominees gather to celebrate the region’s most inspirational businesses, charities and individuals.

Launchpad beat stiff competition with 12 other organisations in the running for the award, including the Berkshire Community Foundation and Building Futures Together, who all attended the ceremony at The Hilton, Reading on Thursday 31 January 2019.

Ian Caren, Launchpad’s Chief Executive, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won this outstanding award. To say our competition was tough is an understatement and all truly deserved to win this recognition.

“At Launchpad, we work so closely with the Reading community and without them, we would have nothing. People, businesses and organisations in the town all come together to help us achieve our aim of giving everyone the chance to have their own home, to feel safe and secure and provide them with the tools to rebuild their lives. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped to make Launchpad what it is today.”

Launchpad was founded in 1979 by students from Reading University who were concerned by the number of rough sleepers in the town and started life as one of the town’s first soup kitchens.

The charity has developed over the years and now has the ability to house 100 people who are homeless and provide each with a tailored support plan to identify their needs and work with them to achieve their goals, by teaching them new skills or learning new hobbies, helping them to gain
employment and ultimately find accommodation of their own which they can call home.

It also provides support by helping people with things like setting up benefits, issues with landlords, hoarding or domestic violence. The charity also has a drop-in service for anyone in Reading who needs housing or homelessness-related advice. Launchpad now helps around 1,200 people every year.

Christina Briggs, CEO of International Alliance was part of the judging panel and said: “Judging this year’s awards was tough. Every entry was of a very high standard and each one was unique which made the decision harder.”

Alec Jones-hall, Director of Thames Valley Business and Community Award’s said “We are proud and excited to have celebrated tonight the very best outstanding achievement across the region and rewarding those who are making a huge impact throughout the Thames Valley. We have seen the business community come together, not only to celebrate the accomplishments of those shortlisted and the deserving winners of each category, but also to mark the fact that we all continue to play a vital role in the success of our region and that its future achievements will be built on the foundations we have laid today.”

Pancake pros due to compete against community on Broad Street

Teams across Reading are preparing for the pancake race of the year which is due to take place in Broad Street on Shrove Tuesday, 5 March 2019. Hundreds of people gather for the annual event which has been running in the town for over 20 years.

Teams from local business don their fancy dress outfits and run in relay races, flipping pancakes along the way. After a series of knock-out heats, the champions will be presented with the coveted frying pan trophy, while awards are also given for the ‘Best Dressed’ and ‘Team Spirit’.

Last year 34 teams took part including Thames Valley Police, John Lewis and Castle Vets. Blandy & Blandy Solicitors are the ones to beat this year after stealing the show and being crowned the champions in 2018 and 2016, while also coming runners-up in 2017.

The event is run by Launchpad and aims to bring the community together for a bit of fun while raising funds to help and support homeless people in Reading. Ian Caren, Launchpad’s Chief Executive, said: “The Pancake Race is our most popular event and is thoroughly enjoyed by all, whether you are taking part or spectating, it is a sight to behold! This year is our 22nd Pancake Race, so it really is a Reading regular.

“Launchpad is very much a local charity working in very close partnership with the Reading community. It’s the community that keeps us going and we really have an amazing one here in Reading. The support we get from our young people, right through to the older generation, from businesses, organisations and schools, is just overwhelming. The Pancake Race is a
really fun way for all ages and abilities to get involved and join in with this incredible sense of community spirit.”

Melvyn, who was involved last year, said: “What a great event, my four volunteers loved it. Seeing so many local businesses coming together to raise money in a fun way is a lovely sight to see.”

This year there are 36 places up for grabs for teams of four. The event is extremely popular, so places go quick. In order to secure your spot, download an application form from our website. Send your completed form to us along with a payment of £50 by Tuesday 26 February in order to secure your place.

On the day, teams will arrive in Broad Street Mall between 11.45am and 12.15pm for registration and photos. We’ll then parade to Broad Street where races begin at 12.30pm with the award presentations at approximately 1.30pm.

Launchpad shortlisted for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Community’ award

Launchpad has been shortlisted for the Thames Valley Business and Community Awards for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Community’.

12 other organisations are in the running for the award, with the finalist being selected at a prestigious award ceremony at The Hilton, Reading on Thursday 31 January 2019.

Launchpad was founded in 1979 by students from Reading University and started life as one of the town’s first soup kitchens. The charity has developed over the years and now houses 100 people and supports over 400 every year.

Ian Caren, Launchpad’s Chief Executive, said: “Our overarching aim is to ensure that everyone in Reading has their own home and the opportunity for a positive future. Some people come to us for advice on things such as benefits, rent, issues with landlords; others come to us in desperate situations.

“We house those that need it and provide tailored support programmes to help them with fundamental life skills, employment and ultimately into long-term accommodation. We believe life skills combined with a safe, clean home give people the very best chance of success.

“We are delighted to have been nominated for the ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Community’ award, and to be shortlisted is a huge acknowledgement for the work we do at Launchpad. Winning would be the icing on the cake.”

Launchpad employee Jason McMahon has also been shortlisted for the category ‘Lifetime of Achievement of the Year’. Jason had a successful career in commercial sales, but following redundancy, divorce and the death of his mother, his life took a different path. After struggling for work, he applied for a 6 month maternity cover role at Launchpad and four years later he is now a permanent, full-time member of staff.

Working as Launchpad’s Corporate Partnerships Manager, Jason visits businesses in and around Reading, speaking to over 5,000 people every year to educate, inspire and raise support to help people have a second chance in life.

Jason said: “Soon after starting at Launchpad and hearing some of our clients’ stories, I realised that we all can be so close to slipping into a sudden crisis; a change of circumstances, financial difficulties, family breakdowns, affording a place to live. It can so easily spiral out of control.

“Launchpad has given me the stability and purpose I needed to move forward and have a better quality of life. In return, I can hopefully change perceptions and raise awareness of homelessness.

“Being recognised for such a prestigious Thames Valley award as a local boy is an honour. I have met amazing people who are all connected through Launchpad. This nomination recognises everyone who has inspired me on my journey and everyone at Launchpad who have helped thousands of people in Reading get their lives back on track.”

Launchpad unveils new accommodation to help prevent homelessness in Reading

Launchpad has officially opened five brand new flats to provide long-term, affordable housing in the town.

The one-bed flats were opened by the Mayor of Reading, Councillor Debs Edwards and Councillor Rachel Eden during a ceremony on Tuesday 15 January 2019 and will be made available for people with a housing need.

Launchpad already provides temporary housing and support for 100 people in Reading, but this is the first time the charity has purchased land and built its own accommodation for people to rent on a long-term basis.

Ian Caren, Launchpad’s Chief Executive, said: “The main driver behind this move is the paucity of long-term, affordable housing in Reading. At Launchpad we help people who are at risk of becoming homeless, support them in getting back on their feet and ultimately move in to their own accommodation. But in Reading, there is such a short supply of suitable homes. These flats will give five people a chance to have their own home where they can feel safe and secure. A right everybody deserves.

“We have worked closely with local architect Chris Weston over the past year to design the flats to ensure they not only complement the local community but give the future residents a home to be proud of. We ourselves are immensely proud of what we have achieved and would never have done it without the support of the Reading community.”

Each flat is part furnished and consists of a bedroom, bathroom, open plan sitting room, kitchen and dining area. The flats have solar panels, triple glazing and are fitted with a smart energy system which will automatically turn the heating off if a window is opened. The flats also have WiFi, a bike shed and are situated in West Reading; a 15-minute walk from the town centre.

Funds to help build the flats were raised by major donors, donations from trusts and members of the Reading community. Haslams Estate Agent held a Charity Gala Ball last year raising a magnificent £100,000, while one couple, who wish to remain anonymous, donated a staggering £125,000.

Ian continued: “We feel so humbled by the generosity and devotion we see from our supporters every day. Without them, we would have nothing. From items such as a buggy donated recently which has made such a difference to a mother and her young child, to our fundraisers, donors and
volunteers, we are extremely grateful.

“This is our very first building project and we hope it to be the first of many. Over the next five years we will be looking for further viable opportunities to purchase land in order to build homes, particularly for families who are in desperate need of long-term accommodation.”