Two Belfast men have spoken emotionally about the demoralising struggle of long-term joblessness after finding gainful employment at the same supermarket.
John McInerney and Alex Reid have each spoken out about their hatred of being forced to claim benefits, the daily pressures of unemployment and even the deterioration in their health they experienced while unemployed.
Now, however, both men have found work at the same supermarket after enrolling in a government-sponsored programme to help the unemployed back into work.
Mr McInerney spent the past four years out of work and looking for a job, and became very frustrated as a result.
“My confidence just nose-dived as my job applications were largely ignored by the companies who said they had jobs available,” he said.
“I hated claiming benefits and wanted to work, but it seemed the harder I tried the more obstacles I had to overcome.
“Being out of work also made me lazy and I completely lost my way. My physical and mental health suffered and success seemed very far away.”
After enrolling in a jobs scheme known as ‘Steps 2 Success’, he managed to find a job with a facilities management firm known as ‘Servest’ and now works cleaning a Sainsbury’s supermarket at Forestside in south Belfast.
Mr Reid, meanwhile, said his “whole existence” had been affected by five years of unemployment.
“Like John, I was completely demoralised,” he said. “After a career in management I was looking for something similar and applying for vacancies all the time.
“My record was completing 100 job applications in one week and not getting a response to one of them. That’s what I found hardest to take and I began to think I was unemployable.”
After enrolling in the same ‘Steps 2 Success’ scheme, Alex now works as a manager at the same firm as Mr McInerney.
“I understand how John felt, and can appreciate the change in his life now that he has a job,” he said.
“Those who have never been unemployed would not appreciate the pressure of being without a job – and it’s far more than just financial worries.
“It affects your whole existence, including your health, and I’m delighted that’s all changed and now I’m able to help make a difference in my job and help people like John.”
Steps 2 Success is run by the Department of Communities at Stormont and helps the unemployed get back into a routine once again, and learn about the skills needed to get a job, such as building an impressive CV.