Life in a dole blackspot
“The profile of the people we see now has changed hugely in the recent years,” says Geraldine Lambert, the unemployment services co-ordinator at Paul Partnership. The organisation, which was set up in the 1990s to help the long-term unemployed, focuses on promoting social inclusion.
“We generally wouldn’t have seen people with significant work experience. Now we’re seeing architects, engineers, managers and HR people. They are very visible.”
Together with Limerick Chamber of Commerce, the partnership is establishing an executive networking group for unemployed professionals. It’s scheduled to be in place by the end of the month. “When people lose their jobs they lose their networks and their contacts. We’re trying to fill that gap,” Lambert explains.
Since January the partnership has registered 1,613 new people. In 1997 it was 700 a year. “That figure will be well over 2,000 by the end of the year. The biggest challenge for us is that there aren’t enough jobs. It’s the same everywhere, But there are some jobs,” she says. Of the people registered this year, 165 have got jobs.
“We are noticing that even overqualified people are willing to go into lower-paid jobs, especially in large companies, because they are hoping for opportunities in the future. And there is a lot of interest in courses on being a carer.”
Lambert mentions one local job she knew of elsewhere in the city, through a friend, that was advertised a fortnight ago. So far there are 252 applications. “That’s what people are up against,” she says.
Across the city, at the Moyross Millennium Jobs Club, the club leader Martina McInerney, who has worked there for 11 years, talks about a pattern she has observed.
“In the first year after losing a job people think something will come up. After two or three with nothing, some people really lose hope.” She cites as an example two clients, both of whom had worked all their lives, who lost their jobs in construction three years ago.
“They thought they’d get something easily in the beginning. They were very upbeat. They both dropped in here recently, and the change in them was most dramatic. They were dishevelled, they didn’t look in great health, and I’m afraid they might have a drink problem.”
One of the services the job club offers is a two-week course in CV and interview skills. There are between 10 and 12 of these a year, with a minimum of 10 people on each course. “If even one person on a course gets an interview, the outlook of the whole group changes,” McGrath says.
In 2000 180 people attended the Millennium Jobs Club. The number is now 400. So far this year the club has placed 20 people in full-time employment, 27 in part-time and 35 on courses.
Pádraig Malone is the co-ordinator of the Limerick Resource Centre for the Unemployed, and has worked there since 1995. “You see the effects of unemployment everywhere. There’s a much more run-down feel to the city centre now, for instance,” he says. “The reputation that Limerick has may very well have affected investment decisions,” he says.