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Megan Fereday

“The catalyst for everything positive in my life”

Sam Pannell is a Support Worker in Freedom2Work: a joint project between Elmbridge Rentstart and Commonweal Housing which aims to break the cycle of homelessness and unemployment.

I’m lucky to have close contact with our service users throughout their time in Freedom2Work: from the time they first come to us for help, to saying goodbye on the doorstep of their new home.

The people we meet in the project come to us with three typical experiences in common: unstable housing, fluctuating benefits, and lack of training and support to navigate the housing system.

We offer wrap-around holistic support to everyone who comes to us for help through Freedom2Work. In this way, we help our clients into stable accommodation, to save for the future and to move on to employment.

As we prepare to release Freedom2Work’s final evaluation report, we’re thrilled to be hearing how life-changing the support we give in this project can be from so many of our clients.

Sam with a Freedom2Work client
Sam with a Freedom2Work client

In their words

We recently received feedback from a client who had struggled with a number of health issues, which had exacerbated his struggles with homelessness. He told us that in the last year, he’d found ‘the one person I’ve been able to turn to’ in Freedom2Work.


Another client wrote a fun poem about the staff, which you can view below. Every staff member at Elmbridge Rentstart is mentioned by name.

This demonstrates the kind of teamwork we put into the wrap-around support we offer in Freedom2Work. We all get involved to help our clients together, in the best way we can.

Final evaluation: learning from our clients

Our final evaluation of the project is due to be released this year. Many of our findings about what’s worked and what hasn’t in this project have come directly from our clients themselves.

Our evaluators have sourced anonymous feedback from our clients, which has been very special for the team to read. One respondent described the project as “the catalyst to everything that’s positive in my life right now”:

It feels like Rentstart have adopted me as their own, and I know they will do everything to help me.”

Anon, Freedom2Work

Action-learning partnership

In our partnership with Commonweal Housing, we’ve engaged in an action-learning process; continually reflecting on what’s working and what can be improved in Freedom2Work.

Our client feedback has been integral to this ongoing reflection; helping us tailor the project to serve our clients’ needs ever better.

Last year, we sent out anonymous surveys to gather some feedback on the positive and negative aspects from client’s perspective. The responses enabled us to narrow our focus in different areas. For example, a number of clients said that although they were saving on the rent credit scheme, they had no idea how much they were saving.

We realised that a simple, monthly SMS system would be an easy way to show clients how much they were saving through our matched funded saving scheme. It would also act as positive reinforcement; showing them how they’re working towards achieving their savings goals, bit by bit.

Boost to go the extra mile

Working in the homelessness sector can be emotionally draining. It can be easy to become downhearted and frustrated when your day-to-day involves lots of giving out, and solving distressing problems for people who are really suffering.

Positive feedback gives us that lift, and helps us see that the toil is worth it. Hearing about the impact of our work at Elmbridge Rentstart helps us step back and see the bigger picture of our work. It brings that spring back into your step, and energises you to go the extra mile.