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Growing army of over-50s join the battle to find work

The BBC’s Panorama programme tonight investigates the growing number of over-50s who are unemployed.

The programme will highlight a current army of almost 400,000 over-50s who face a growing stack of rejection letters.  Staggeringly, almost half are classed by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) as long term unemployed, meaning they have been out of work for at least a year.

For the over-50s, the ONS data reveals that the odds of finding another job are lower than in any other age group and they rarely make headlines or are the subject of government back-to-work initiatives.

These statistics are even more relevant in Torbay, where the percentage of its over 50 population who are ‘workless’ or economically inactive is 42.65% – 7.3% higher than in the rest of the UK.

With the real issues of high competition for few jobs, increased rates of redundancy and ageism in the workplace, the over-50s face tough times ahead.

Robert Winstone of Torquay experienced this first hand, when after 40 years working for a local electrical contractor, his employer lost a large contract and he was made redundant.

The impact of redundancy hit Robert particularly hard. At aged 62 he knew he had to keep working to see him into his retirement, yet he struggled to find a new job.

“I felt so frustrated at not being able to find a job and felt my age was a real barrier” Says Robert. “I’d spoken to an advisor at JobCentre Plus about a lifelong ambition to be my own boss and they suggested I considered self-employment”.

Enterprising over-50s

While there is a wealth of enterprise support widely available to the youth, it is the over 50s who are the very people most likely to have the life skills, knowledge and experience to start a business.  In Torbay, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Torbay Development Agency have funded the business start-up support programme Outset Torbay, to help people who are disadvantaged in business, including the over-50s, to consider self-employment and start their own businesses.

Robert joined the Outset Torbay programme in January 2011 and began to explore his potential for starting his own business.  “I knew I had a good set of skills from my engineering background which I could use in my own business but I just didn’t have the confidence or know-how to make it happen”.

“The advisors at Outset Torbay made me feel at ease straightaway and explained the programme of free business start-up workshops and one-to-one support which were available in my local area.”

Since completing the Outset programme, Robert has been able to turn his ambition into reality, setting up his handyman and domestic decorating business, ‘Prestige Decorating’. “Thanks to the advisors at Outset I’m now confident about the steps I need to take to start up on my own and I understand how to market myself and my business. As I come across any hurdles with the business then the Outset advisors are there for ongoing support.”

If you are over 50 and unemployed or know someone who is struggling to find employment, encourage them to call our enterprise coaches at Outset Torbay on 0800 032 2905 and make an appointment that will help them realise their potential for self-employment.