My fourteen-year-old daughter has discovered that £5 per week pocket money just isn’t going to keep her phone topped up or buy her the new guitar she wants, so she needs a job. When I was fourteen I had a Saturday job at BHS. I was so new to the world of work that when I was sent off for my lunch break on my first day I came back ten minutes later having eaten my sandwiches. No one had told me that I got a whole hour off.
Unfortunately things seem to have changed since then, because BHS no longer employ anyone under the age of sixteen. Neither do the other usual suspects – fast food places and supermarkets. So we started calling into small independent shops, and none of those will have her either. Finally, with a heavy heart, she accepted that the dreaded paper round was the only answer and headed to the newsagent, only to be told that they had a long waiting list of youngsters in a similar position and she was unlikely to make it to the top of the list before her sixteenth birthday.
I haven’t been unemployed since my time at BHS, so seeing Gwen’s dilemma is giving me a small glimpse of what callers to LawCare’s helpline who have been made redundant are going through. Wanting to work, needing to work, knowing that they have the capability and skills to do an excellent job, and yet, through no fault of their own, finding themselves feeling superfluous and undervalued. Many have excellent professional qualifications and years of experience, and yet find themselves shut out and turned away time and time again. It is demoralising and frustrating and it’s not surprising that it dents their self esteem and can lead to despair and depression. It’s not easy to help these people, but with the recession easing there is at least hope on the horizon.
Gwen knows that in August 2011 she will turn 16 and can then go and toss burgers or stack shelves to her heart’s content. I hope unemployed solicitors also know that it isn’t forever; that they do have something to offer to the professional world, and that they are of value.
Anyone need a babysitter?
LawCare’s free and confidential helpline is available 9-7.30 Monday-Friday, 10-4 weekends, on:
0800 279 6888 (Solicitors, Law Students and Legal Executives in England and Wales)
0800 279 6869 (Solicitors, Advocates and Law Students in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man)
0800 018 4299 (Barristers, Clerks and Judges in England and Wales)
1800 991801 (Solicitors in the Republic of Ireland)
1800 303145 (Barristers in the Republic of Ireland)