Dave was at rock bottom when he came to our drop-in service. He’d suffered a nervous breakdown and left his job, and was facing eviction.
Nikki, a floating support specialist officer at Launchpad, assessed Dave at the time and said: “When Dave first came to us, he was physically quite withdrawn, didn’t make eye contact, was low in mood and we could see that he was socially isolated.
“A close friend of Dave’s died and he left his job when he started really struggling with depression. He fell into serious rent arrears and it got to a point where the bills were starting to increase too.”
“I worked at a builder’s merchant for many years but stopped working because of the breakdown and I didn’t do anything to get support really,” Dave explained. “At the time it really upset me and I just couldn’t carry on with my job. I think it was such a shock, my friend who died was so young and I just wanted to be on my own.”
Dave didn’t visit his GP or apply for benefits, and said that a few years in, he started to worry about losing his home. It was then that a housing association officer where he lives suggested he went to Launchpad’s drop-in service for urgent support, which runs three times a week for anyone with a housing issue.
Taking the steps to get support
“When I went to the drop-in, I knocked on the door and explained my circumstances, and they asked a member of staff to have a chat with me – and that person was Nikki. When I first met her, I found she was a very friendly person – very helpful and very patient, and a really nice person,” said Dave.
Nikki explains: “When someone comes to drop-in, they are assessed and then often referred to our floating support team – where we then work with individuals, couples and families for three to six months to help them get their lives back on track.”
At Dave’s assessment, he and Nikki talked through his circumstances to identify his needs and how Launchpad can support him, and found he had no cooking facilities at his property, and no hot water or gas due to the boiler being condemned. He also needed to be set up for benefit payments.
“We met the following week and made a detailed support plan to put a number of things in place over the coming months – which included sourcing a cooker and a mobile phone, and setting him up on Universal Credit and supporting him to log on and update journals. We also helped him to call up the water company to pay off his arrears, apply for council tax support and set up a payment plan to pay off his council tax.
“A big part of the work we do at Launchpad is to make sure people don’t lose their homes in the first place and the personalised support plans we put together for each client puts everything in place to prevent this from happening. Our aim throughout the process is to empower clients to get to a point where they can live independently, and manage their rent and bills without support.”
Discovering Launchpad 135
As Dave lacked confidence and wanted to be part of a social environment, Nikki also referred him to Launchpad 135, our work and life skills centre.
“Since I’ve been at 135, I’ve done art, cooking, digital skills and gardening. Doing all this has helped me with my confidence because that was really knocked down with what had gone on before, and it has made me a better person,” explains Dave.
“When I first visited Launchpad 135, it wasn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. It’s a very friendly place. The staff are always very friendly and helpful, and I have also got to know other clients who attend the classes and courses. I’ve made some friends and have really benefitted from the extra support.”
Dave has particularly enjoyed gardening and art and said: “I like to be someone that uses their hands and does outdoor activities. I also like drawing and find that very therapeutic, and it makes me very happy.”
Plans for the future
Dave volunteered to be a tour guide at one of Launchpad 135’s art exhibitions earlier this year, which has given him the confidence to think about what he might do in the future.
“I met members of the public, Launchpad staff and even the Mayor of Reading, and showed them around the exhibition and described to them about the paintings and the drawings. I talked about who had done the drawing and the painting and a bit of history. It was a really good experience and my plans are in the future to hopefully get back into work – maybe not the same line of work as before – something different. And there is a good chance that I could do some more volunteering too,” says Dave.
Nikki recently caught up with Dave over a coffee at Launchpad 135 to see how he has been getting on said, “I am amazed at how well he is doing. He is independently managing his Universal Credit, has no threat of eviction and all his bills are in place. He’s thriving at Launchpad 135 and the fact that he has been volunteering and even considering work again is incredible.”
Dave said he owes the turnaround in his life to the support he’s received, saying: “If I didn’t have the drop-in service, Nikki or Launchpad 135, I think I would be struggling a lot. The staff have been wonderful and helped me sort out my problems. I’m still in the same accommodation, I am in a much better place and I’ve got back my confidence.”
The cost-of-living crisis
Despite turning things around, Dave – like many others – has concerns about the rise in the cost-of-living over the coming months and the impact it will have on him: “I am worried about paying bills, keeping electric and gas on, and being able to afford food over the winter. There are lots of uncertainties. I used to go to local food banks when I was short of food, and I will have to use the food banks again if I do get short of money.”
Nikki, too, has concerns and anticipates an increase in the number of local people visiting Launchpad’s drop-in service for urgent support.
“I’m concerned about how the price hikes are going to affect our current clients – many of them are already struggling to make ends meet or have gone through serious hardships and have overcome them, only to be faced with difficulties again,” explains Nikki.
“And in the last year, Launchpad’s drop-in service has seen 620 people in housing crisis and the floating support team worked with 232 people to ensure they remained housed – but I think these numbers will only increase as many people who have never had any kind of rent arrears before or haven’t faced any kind of housing emergency will need urgent support.”
“I’d encourage anyone in housing crisis to visit our drop-in, which is open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10am and 2pm at our central Reading offices, just off Friar Street in Merchants Place. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0118 929 1111.”