However, the grandmother from Cockermouth is now the proud manager of a thriving charity shop, and relishes every minute of her new life.
“To be honest, I couldn’t wait to get a job,” recalled Freda, “After raising our three children, I spent many years caring for my mother and then my husband when he became ill. When he died in 2012, I knew I would have to get a job to support myself, and I was looking forward to it.”
However, her enthusiasm was dimmed when numerous job applications she sent off failed to land her the new start she’d hoped for, and she ended up being unemployed for nearly a year.
“I applied for all sorts of jobs, care work, retail, even going door to door around Cockermouth, posting my CV and asking for jobs in every shop,” said Freda, who was receiving Employment and Support Allowance benefits.
“I think it was my age – no-one seemed interested. Jobs in retail always seem to go to young people.”
Her fortunes changed after she was referred by Jobcentre Plus to our Work Programme office in Workington. The scheme provides tailored support for long-term unemployed people in the region who need more help to undertake active and effective job-seeking.
Freda told her new employment advisers she had been working at the Cumbria Cerebral Palsy shop in Station Street, Cockermouth as a volunteer for nine years between caring for her husband and bringing up her children. The shop raises funds for a long established local charity working with children and adults who have Cerebral Palsy, selling books, clothes, ornaments and shoes.
Building on the skills she had acquired while volunteering at the shop, we arranged for Freda to attend a number of training courses designed to fill some of the gaps in her skills and give her a better chance of finding employment. From not being able to turn on a computer, Freda gained IT skills to enable her to carry out job searches online and her PeoplePlus trainer Deborah Thompson helped her put together a cracking CV, highlighting her transferrable skills and commitment to work.
With new-found enthusiasm, Freda began to apply for more jobs when, by a twist of fate, the position of manager at Cumbria Cerebral Palsy became available. Freda’s trainer Deborah Thompson encouraged her to go for it, and although Freda lost out on the position that time, it suddenly came up again a few months later and she was offered the job.
Freda is now the friendly face that greets customer at the charity shop. Reflecting on her experience, she said: “The advice and support I found at PeoplePlus made all the difference. It was a life-saver, really. It can get really depressing looking for work. After my husband died, I felt everything was coming down on top of me, having to sign on and look for work. It was quite scary – especially when I hadn’t a clue about computers.
“But the team at PeoplePlus was so welcoming, so friendly – even now I’ll pop in for a cup of tea, and whenever I’ve had any questions – like recently when I wanted to ask about working tax credits – I know that I can always get the help I need.”
“My life has settled down and I’m really enjoying my job. Cockermouth is a great place. It’s mainly the people. Everyone is so friendly. When you know that you are going to work and meet good people every day, it’s a reason to get up and enjoy life.”
Employment Minister, Priti Patel said:
“We want everyone to have the opportunity to get on and make the most of our growing economy and our welfare reforms are supporting people to do that.
“The Work Programme helps people who have been unemployed for a long time, to get into and stay in work, so they can improve their futures.
“Inspirational stories such as Freda’s, show how people can transform their lives with the dignity of a job and the security of a pay-packet.”