Employment

‘I was made redundant twice in three months’

Young people are being hit hard by the recession. Ren, in Liverpool, shares her story of Covid-19 redundancy with The Big Issue

young activists ask questions about their future for The Big Issue Wellbeing Week

Lockdown started off more positively for 23-year-old Ren than it did for most. Landing a new job as a call centre agent for a bank in April and staying with her partner, things were going well — until she was made redundant after three months.

Like many young people she had to move back in with family. She took on caring duties for her grandmother, who suffered a punctured lung in an accident, and was left with no money coming in and little time to search for work. 

She eventually found another job in August, at a cafe. But then Covid-19 restrictions meant the business had to close and she was made redundant again.

“It’s not just one problem you face when you lose a job,” she told The Big Issue. “You have to worry about your landlord if you rent, the utilities company, Universal Credit and basic things like being able to afford food.”

Ren, based in Liverpool, is just one of the thousands of young people being impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic. Last week the Resolution Foundation said youth unemployment was on track to reach its highest point since under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

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It’s a rise largely driven by the disproportionate number of young people in industries most affected by the pandemic safety measures, such as hospitality and retail. More than half of under-25s were either furloughed after March or lost their jobs entirely.

While working for the bank, Ren was worried about exposing her vulnerable grandmother — who she lived with — to the virus, so moved into her partner’s house while her mum took on caring responsibilities. But redundancy left her no choice but to move back.

“While that was tough on me, it was tough on them too because I couldn’t afford to pay any keep or even buy my own food,” she told The Big Issue. 

“My gran had an accident during this time. She broke a rib and punctured her lung, so she needed caring for round the clock. My mum is a carer so she sometimes has to do 24 hour shifts, so during this time I couldn’t even apply for work because I needed to be home caring for my gran whilst my mum wasn’t here.”

Eventually Ren, who graduated from university a year ago, secured a job in a local cafe. She still couldn’t pay rent or bill costs to her family because her wage was going straight to paying off debts built up while out of work. 

But just a month into her new role, the Government introduced the rule of six and 10pm curfew for hospitality. The owners decided to close the business before accruing losses they couldn’t recover from, and Ren was made redundant again.

“I really sympathised with them because independent businesses have been hit hard, especially in the hospitality industry, which is where I have worked my whole adult life,” she said. 

The same day Ren spoke to The Big Issue, she was finally offered a new job in hospitality, though it is part time. 

“I’m just happy to be working again,” she said, but added that she has only £50 to get her through the next month after being stuck in the “vicious cycle” of having to borrow money while job hunting.

“Finding a job in this climate is almost impossible and I really feel for people that don’t have much experience,” Ren said. “At the moment jobs are only hiring people with extensive experience because nobody has the time for training. Plus a lot of jobs coming up at this time of year are seasonal fixed-term contracts, which is better than nothing but it’s no good for people who need stability like myself.

Ren said she knows of landlords refusing applications from tenants who work in hospitality due to the instability of the sector, as well as turning down potential renters who are unemployed and receiving benefits.

“I think it’s absolutely disgusting, especially during a pandemic,” she said. “My friend from Leeds was recently denied a flat because she works as a barista and the landlord didn’t deem her job stable enough.”

Ren’s girlfriend has been able to provide some support through the pandemic after her three-month contract at a supermarket was extended, which Ren said has “really saved [them]”.

“To be honest, there’s no support out there after losing your job except your own friends and family,” she added. “You just go to work one day and get told you won’t be coming back and that’s that. I really feel for people that don’t have a strong bubble of support because I don’t know what i would have done without my family and friends.”

Tell us your stories and your ideas

Has your life been affected by the pandemic? Do you have an idea about how people’s jobs and livelihoods could be secured? We want to share your story and bring together different thinking to form some solutions. Get in touch – email rora@bigissue.com.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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