Letter: Unjust bar on older workers

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The Independent Online
Unjust bar on older workers

Sir: There are thousands of older unemployed people in Britain who are desperate to work at almost any job and almost any wage but who are turned down for employment time after time because they are considered too old ("Across the Atlantic: grey power is the US secret weapon", 9 July).

In a recent survey, about 13 per cent of older people had been openly turned down for jobs because they were "too old". A further 8 per cent were turned down because they were "overqualified". But many other employers, questioned by would-be workers about the reasons for their rejection, admitted that applicants were automatically disqualified by being in their forties or fifties.

Various ways of helping mature people back to work have been propounded. Most never get off the ground, and those that do totter along shakily from year to year because they need money for essentials, such as a roof over their heads, electricity, telephones and stationery. Not vast sums. Not the pounds 6,000m it is costing the country to keep over-45-year-olds on benefits every year. Not the pounds 3bn the Government proposes to put into welfare-to-work for a relatively few under-25-year-olds. Unfortunately the two obvious sources for such funding, the Employment Service and the Training and Enterprise Councils, are for the most part unwilling to find even these modest funds.

Should "delayered" accountants and engineers, "downsized" marketing men and secretaries, "redundant" salesmen, "failed" entrepreneurs and "early retired" teachers and bank managers hang around on street corners, drinking from cans and frightening old ladies? Should they put bricks through shop windows in moments of frustration? Should they shout and swear and threaten? Should even more of them commit suicide than already do? Is this an essential step to work?

No one expects the Government to solve the problem of mature unemployment overnight, but hope could be restored if, unlike its predecessor, it could persuade the Employment Service and the TECs to support organisations working for this cause.


Brecon, Powys