For the last three months The Young Foundation has been working with Mind to develop a programme targeting the mental health of older men who are out of work. Our goal was to work with them to discover the best ways to help build their resilience and reduce their risk of mental problems.
As part of this work we have been talking to men about their experiences in trying to find work, and how being unemployed affects their life and wellbeing. Our report, ‘Who is going to employ me?’ shares the stories and experiences of men in Darlington, Hackney, Merthyr Tydfil, Newham and York, as well as making practical recommendations about designing resilience interventions.
We want to introduce you to some of the men we met along the way. These profiles are composite portraits based around the men who shared their lives and opinions with us. The sentiments shared in quotes are direct quotations from real individuals.
Imran moved to East London from rural Bangladesh 5 years ago, with his wife and two daughters, with hopes of making a better life for him and his family. Having friends and family that had already moved to the area, he quickly settled into the Bangladeshi community in Newham, and now has a strong network of support around him.
Educated to university level in Bangladesh, Imran had big plans to set up a family catering business, but this hasn’t yet come together. Through his contacts he managed to find odd jobs to tide him over and pay the bills when they first arrived. At first he was a kitchen porter at a friend’s restaurant, but then the restaurant shut down. After that it was a few hours here and there with a taxi firm, though the work was often at anti-social hours and dried up in the last six months or so. He’d love to have something a bit more permanent and is always on the look-out for jobs in the local newspaper. He normally applies for between ten and fifteen jobs a week – but he never gets past the interview stage.
“I can’t find work, it’s very difficult…I’m not doing anything, just searching for a job.”
Although he’s been here for several years, his English is still very stilted. He worries about this, and suspects that this might be a main reason for his lack of success in securing a job. He doesn’t have much chance to practice it. Most of his friends are also migrants and at home they tend to speak Bengali. He’s beginning to feel quite cut-off and would love to do a bit more in the wider community, but doesn’t really know how to go about it. He’s lost a lot of his confidence and worries that he wouldn’t be good company.
Adjusting to a life on benefits has been a real struggle for Imran. He was brought up in a hard-working family, and when in Bangladesh he had always worked. Now his anxiety levels are increasing and he is finding it hard to sleep.
“In my particular case, I don’t sleep very well. There was a time when I couldn’t cope. It was a constant battle.”
His family find it hard to understand too. His daughters are constantly needing bits and pieces for school. He feels like he’s letting them down. He is ashamed and struggles to talk to his family about it, and often stays out in the evenings with his friends instead of being at home.
Recently he has been speaking to an employment advisor from his housing association and he has found this support very helpful. They have managed to secure him a place on an ESOL course and are working with him to find a job within the catering business. He hopes this might be a turning point, but doesn’t want to get excited too soon.
To find out more about the challenges faced by men like Imran and how we can support their resilience and wellbeing, read our report “Who is going to me employ me?”