A 38-year-old woman has finally found a job – after a 20-year search – thanks to a ground-breaking UK charity.
Victoria Clutton, a maths and computer science graduate from Lincoln, has chased countless positions during a two-decade long job-hunt that almost left her homeless.
Now, thanks to Astriid, a charity championing the UK’s long-term ill who are neglected by employers, Victoria has secured her first ever job: as a communications coordinator for a global engineering company.
In England, around 15million children and adults live with chronic disease according to the Department of Health. Astriid estimates that across the UK, there are hundreds of thousands of people with a wide range of qualifications, skills and experience, but are excluded from the national workforce because of long-term medical conditions. The charity says that if business leaders change attitudes towards inclusion and diversity practices, health issues are no obstacle to successful and productive employment.
Despite suffering the debilitating symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/ME since the age of 16, Victoria was determined to find work. With grit to continue persevering her career dreams, Victoria stuck at her degree course for 14 years before graduating with The Open University.
She said: “I took several long breaks from my studies because my health was so up and down and at one stage the medication, I was on meant that I regularly slept up to 22 hours a day. Despite this, I was deemed fit for work and the Jobcentre declared that I could work from home. But without any employment history or skills to offer, I couldn’t find a suitable position that could fit my additional needs, so I was unable to support myself financially – I struggled to buy food and nearly lost my home.”
Victoria’s condition causes pain, extreme fatigue, sensory overload and on very bad days, brain fog which can mean she is unable to concentrate or even speak.
Victoria added: “Many people with CFS/ME don't work because there are so many obstacles, not because of a lack of willingness or laziness. A typical day for me is worlds apart from a typical day for a healthy person, so I don’t tick any of the rigid boxes associated with what work is supposed to look like. It’s frustrating and disheartening because it feels like you’re being labelled by society as being unemployable. There needs to be a fundamental change.”
By accessing Astriid’s unique services and support, Victoria was finally able to find meaningful work – something that was always beyond her reach. She now works from home for leading engineering consultancy Altran, responsible for coordinating the company’s intranet and has had an initial contract extended.
Astriid chairman, Steve Shutts commented: “Sadly, Victoria’s struggle to find employment mirrors that of thousands of people with ongoing health problems in the UK, who are skilled and want to work, if given the chance.
“My late brother, David Shutts OBE founded the charity shortly after his stage 4 cancer diagnosis, with the aim to galvanise this ‘invisible talent pool’.
“We’re extremely proud of Victoria’s achievement and have no doubt that her story will inspire the business leaders, employers and other people with long-term illness looking for flexible work to get behind our mission to make the invisible visible.”
Victoria finished: “Entering the world of work for the first time has been an exceptional experience and while I might struggle to find a balance sometimes, I’m reveling in the challenge.
“Altran is an incredibly understanding employer and takes a more modern view on how employees can complete their working day. I’m fitting my job around my needs, not the other way around and I strongly believe other companies should be taking this approach wherever possible to promote inclusivity. I feel like, thanks to Astriid I found the holy grail of jobs!”
Through its one-of-a-kind matchmaking platform, Astriid invites jobseekers like Victoria, who have chronic, often incurable health problems, and their care-givers, to join its free online community. Here, they can describe their talents and provide details on how and when they can work, while companies list their flexible paid or voluntary positions available; Astriid then links them up.
"Entering the world of work for the first time has been an exceptional experience and while I might struggle to find a balance sometimes, Im reveling in the challenge. "
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