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David's voice - Getting back into work during COVID-19

David, 56, had a twenty-year career as a high-profile trade union official. But after he left work to care for his partner in 2010, he’s struggled to get back into work.

Now, David fears that the coronavirus crisis will make it even harder for him to find work. ‘I’ve got so much to offer,’ he says. ‘But you just feel like you’re for the scrapheap.’  

"I left school – my local comprehensive – at 16, and for the first five years of my working life I did a few different clerical jobs and jobs in retail. At 21, I joined the Royal Mail, and for the next five or six years I worked as a postman: sorting, delivering, all that kind of stuff. 

"After a while in the job, I got involved with what was then the postal workers trade union – now the CWU. I was asked to get involved with the revision process for testing the routes – so I stopped doing deliveries and started working with managers and staff on the new routes. In 1992, aged 28, I became the area rep for my postcode, and a few years later became a regional rep. In 2002, I got onto the national executive committee, and did that for eight years. I was chairman of the national health and safety committee, so I was involved in negotiations, representation, appeals – the lot. I spoke at conferences, I chaired conferences. It was a high-profile professional role. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met in my career who can’t believe I didn’t go to university. 

"Around 2008, my long-term partner started having health problems. By 2009, it was difficult because she was struggling with illness and I had this high-profile job. I was either commuting from Reading to London or travelling around the country. So in 2010 I took redundancy to care for her. In 2013, she went into full-time residential care, and I continued to support her by visiting daily. She died three years ago. 

When I was working, I saw first-hand the attitude to the older workforce. When I started, older workers were valued, but that all went by the wayside. 

"Since 2013, when my partner went into care, I’ve been trying to get back into work. But despite a huge amount of effort, that’s been unsuccessful. I’ve applied for board member roles, non-executive director roles, consultancy… but I’ve had no luck.  

"I’ve got a great CV and whenever I apply for jobs I show how I meet the person specification. A friend who’s a careers adviser has looked over my CV and applications and said it’s a good CV. Before applying for jobs, I’ve phoned the company and asked if I fit the criteria and they’ve said yes. And yet I’m not even selected for interview.  

"I can’t put it down to anything other than age. I’ve racked my brains, I’ve spoken to experts. I’ve requested to be told why I’m not being accepted for roles, but they won’t tell me. When I was working, I saw first-hand the attitude to the older workforce. When I started, older workers were valued, but that all went by the wayside. They’d like to do away with the older workforce and get younger people in. You feel like you’re for the scrapheap.  

"It’s very depressing for me. I’ve got unique experience and a unique skillset. I’ve got a good few years left and a lot to offer. I’m passionate about the work I do, and I know I’ve got a lot to bring to an organisation. But I’m constantly being overlooked.  

"I’ve tried the local careers service in my area, but it just felt like they were going through the motions. I went to the office a couple of times, but I was just directed to do job search on the computers which I could have done at home. The whole experience was very negative one.  

"I don’t want to retire early, but I’m in early retirement by design because no one wants to give me a job. Since coronavirus I’ve eased off from looking for things because I don’t think people will be recruiting. I’ve spoken to people who have said ‘someone will snap you up – it’s just a matter of getting noticed.’ But I can’t seem to get anyone to notice me."

Back on track: Improving employment support for over 50s jobseekers

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