Louise originally trained as a teacher and then did a master’s degree in play therapy. She worked for a charity to start with, in a role that wasn’t specifically for a therapist, and volunteered in a few roles within her field and then launched her own business, Voyage Play Therapy.

The business offers children’s counselling and specializes in play therapy for children aged 3-12. She works with individual children either in schools, community centres or their homes. The children she works with have usually been subject to traumatic events – bereavement, abuse, family change or breakdown etc and may also have issues around communication.

Prior to starting her course, her relationship broke down and she single parented a young pre-school child while trying to work 3 jobs and complete her Masters. This led to being signed off work and being eligible for Income Support. When starting some casual work 6 months later, she did not realise her son was still getting free school meals mistakenly. On contacting the benefits office to explain this, they cancelled all tax credits and housing benefits and moved her on to universal credit. This was just as she was starting her business upon graduating with her Masters. She suddenly found herself juggling childcare and the demands of her business, together with the loss of another income.

When Purple Shoots met her, she was trying to move her business forward and had recognized a need for an additional training course which particularly Social Services and other children’s charities looked for, which would help her to win more work. She wanted to do the course but she had no extra funds to pay for it. This was primarily because every time she managed to grow her income through the business, the Universal Credit support she received reduced dramatically (losing 63p for every £1 earned) so that she effectively stood still financially and it was impossible for her to plan and accumulate any funds to grow.

Our loan enabled her to complete the training course and to step the business up to the next level. Things were going well until the lockdowns caused by the covid pandemic. Louise was not able to do her work – but because she was peripatetic with no office rates and had a job as well as being self-employed in her first year of training, she did not meet the requirements for support packages offered by Central or Welsh Government. Her only option was to go back onto full Universal Credit and to try to survive on that again while homeschooling and continuing to receive enquiries to support families therapeutically. Purple Shoots suspended its loan repayments to help.

As the lockdown eases, demand for quality professional mental health support for children and families rises. Needing to fund new equipment for each child worked with to be covid-secure was very hard after 6 months of no income. Being able to work with Welsh ICE’s 5-9 club last summer meant a re-structure and change of name. Voyage of Hope Therapy Services Ltd now still offers play therapy but also provides training and support for practitioners and families. As a limited company, she will soon be able to hire a Kickstart administrative assistant which will be someone who has been on universal credit for 6 months and is aged 16-24 – though needing to have the additional salary costs for 1 month up front is prohibitive. Louise is now planning a wedding and is enjoying having the flexibility to run a business around her child; a business that nearly ground to a halt in the pandemic without financial support. She looks forward to seeing what adventure will happen next!