When Mark Conway reached out to the Restart Scheme for help to find work, he was able to end a five-year hiatus. The scheme, delivered by Ingeus, was set up in the wake of the pandemic to help long-term unemployed people boost their chances of finding a job. Participants are assigned a mentor and given special access to job vacancies.
Ill health has been a major stumbling block for Mark, aged 59, from Bury. He had spent nine years working in the care industry but it affected his mental health, leaving him with depression and anxiety. On top of that, he’s had numerous physical health problems. Mark says: “I had tennis elbow for three years, which came on for no reason. Eventually it went away but that stopped me getting work involving any form of lifting or manual labour. Then I got plantar fasciitis and couldn’t use my left foot. I also had whiplash some years ago that caused upper neck and lower lumbar issues so I couldn’t do certain jobs. Thankfully, these conditions are all steady now.”
Mark’s work coach at Prestwich Jobcentre Plus referred him to Restart for tailored support from Ingeus Restart Advisor Anita Walsh and her colleagues. “When I came to the Restart Scheme, they were very reassuring and most helpful getting me back on the right track,” says Mark. “The staff are genuinely friendly. I can’t praise Anita enough. She’s a lovely lady, and every time jobs were coming up, she was letting me know.”
Anita helped Mark to update his CV and offered tips on interview technique. His main problem, however, was computer literacy. “I am not very good at IT, it’s one of my weaknesses. I’m a pen and paper man, I’m old school,” says Mark. He completed a digital skills workshop with performance delivery trainer Trevor Hardman to help him improve in this area. Another adviser, Harshad Sakhale, was also on hand to offer digital support. “Harshad helped me fill in a very complicated application form and showed me how to send photos online, I wouldn’t have been able to do that without his help,” says Mark. “All the staff are very, very nice.”
Mark applied for numerous vacancies with Anita’s support and finally landed a job as a customer adviser. Although he’s since left the role, he now has a job in the offing as a cashier for a well-known retailer. “I’m interested in working in a shop because I like to talk!” says Mark. “I used to work on market stalls when I was younger, I’ve always been a people person!”
Commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions, Ingeus delivers the Restart Scheme in Greater Manchester and Central and West London and is partner to Serco, which delivers Restart in Central West Midlands.
Mark adds: “I was unemployed for a long time and the Restart Scheme has helped me break out of that rut. I want to thank everyone on the team.”