Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11.02.43The veterans’ charity Launchpad in Newcastle upon Tyne has received the keys to a brand new 9-seater minibus thanks to a grant awarded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund. 

The charity, which provides extensive housing, employment and welfare support for veterans from Avondale House in Byker successfully applied for a £20,000 grant to help them transport veterans to a variety of locations to take part in development, sporting and social events as well as training and job interviews. 

The Government grant is one of 174 Armed Forces projects across the country which have accessed the £10m fund to support schemes under the Armed Forces Covenant.

 Instead of relying on taxis, the Metro and buses as well as the administration and logistics of trying to get veterans to the various projects they support across the region, they can now all travel in the new bus which will reduce travel costs that fall to the veterans.

Former RAF veteran Lofty Rames who is facilities manager at Avondale House, which is owned the Byker Community Trust (BCT) housing association, said: “We’ve only had the mini bus for a week and its already proved valuable.  We took nine veterans to the Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre in Northumberland last week to help out with laboring duties but it is more convenient all going together in one journey.

 “The veterans can book the bus out if it benefits them and the charity so we’ll be using it to take them to events and projects where we volunteer and also if they have job interviews or training.  It will be a big help to the veterans both financially and logistically.” 

Phil Old, Manager of Avondale House and himself a veteran of the Royal Navy, said: “We are most grateful to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund for providing Launchpad with this grant.  It will be a huge help to the veterans as we help them get back to independent living.”

Major General David Shaw, Chair of the Launchpad trustees said: “In conjunction with the funds spent by the Byker Community Trust housing association, the Armed Forces Community Covenant Fund helped us to refurbish Avondale House three years ago.  This latest grant for the Armed Forces Covenant Fund allows us to do even more to benefit the veterans and to get them back to being contributing and confident members of their community.”

Award-winning Launchpad, which operates two veterans’ homes in Newcastle and Liverpool, has been in operation for nearly three years providing a safe environment helping residents to make a responsible transition from military to civilian life.  The charity and veterans address the major challenges that, for the majority of residents, have led to homelessness and unemployment.