The manager of a project engaging over fifties at risk of alcoholism in Derry says employers and recruiters need to be more sympathetic.
Joanne Smith is the ‘Drink Wise, Age Well’ manager for the Western Trust area.
Yesterday, at a summit in the Millennium Forum examining the often corrosive relationship between alcohol and work, she told delegates how employees, retirees and job-seekers may all find themselves at risk of becoming problem drinkers at some point in their later lives.
New research, informed by a survey of 17,000 people at five ‘Drink Wise, Age Well’ sites in Derry, Glasgow, Sheffield, Merthyr Tydfill and Devon, as well as at a number of control sites, revealed some startling statistics.
Seventeen per cent of respondents were identified as ‘increasing risk drinkers’ , for example, and those who said they were drinking more now than previously cited retirement, bereavement, loss of purpose in life, fewer opportunities to socialise and a change in financial circumstances, as the most common reasons.
Ms. Smith said people can be affected for a variety of reasons and that problem drinking can revisit those affected.
“It can be very challenging getting back into the labour market because of low self-esteem, confidence taking a dip, but also in terms of employers and how they view an employee with an alcohol-related past. Some may see it as high risk,” she said.
Employers need to be less judgmental, said Ms. Smith. Research shows only 16 per cent would hire someone with previous alcohol problems, notwithstanding their skills and experience.
“What we want to do within the work environment is create an atmosphere where people feel they can come forward if they are struggling with alcohol-related issues, that they don’t feel they are going to be penalised by saying they have an issue, just like they wouldn’t if they had a heart-related issue or any other sort of ailment,” she said.
And Derry has its own problems.
“We would like our employment figures to be higher. For those aged fifty and over it’s a particular challenge because the way in which recrutiment processes are set up might be very different from when they were first looking for work. Trying to get back on that kind of conveyor belt again and tap into the opportunities can be very difficult.”