£2m National Lottery funding for older workers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

The National Lottery Community Fund is investing more than £2 million of National Lottery funding on a project to support older people to remain in or return to work in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Age NI, in partnership with Business in the Community Northern Ireland, have been awarded the £2,244,942 grant for the five-year Age at Work project which is raising awareness of an ageing workforce and supporting businesses to be more age inclusive.

By supporting older people to remain in or return to work, the project is helping them to have enough income, stay connected, develop new skills, lead a fuller working life and reduce loneliness and isolation.

Age NI and Business in the Community Northern Ireland’s counterparts in Scotland and Wales are also delivering the project in their countries.

The project is encouraging businesses to recruit, retain and retrain older workers. It is offering resources, advice and support including training and work placements. The project is also working with employers to support age inclusive policies.

Recent research also indicates that 82% of people aged in their 40s and 50s who are in work would like to have more flexibility in their job pattern in the future, 81% are interested in developing new skills and 47% are interested in being promoted. (Source: Mid-Career Review survey, Age NI, Business in the Community NI and Department for Communities, due to be published in 2019)

Siobhan Casey, director of business development and marketing at Age NI, said: “We are all living for longer, which means that for many of us, we will also be working for a greater length of time. This presents both challenges and opportunities for older workers and employers.

“Our research has told us that older people want to continue in employment for a number of reasons. These might include wanting to stay connected with others (30%), or for some it might be for financial reasons – 47% are likely to work past the state pension age to be able to afford their desired lifestyle. However, as caring responsibilities, health issues and other interests emerge, the need for employers to adapt to these scenarios by offering more flexible options is critical to retaining and valuing the expertise and contribution of older workers.

“As part of the Age at Work project, over the next five years, Age NI will support over one thousand people seeking a refresh of their current role, skills and prospects by providing a tailored Mid-Career Review. The aim of this initiative is to increase the confidence, skills and opportunities for those who wish to, as well as those who need to, stay in work for longer.”

Kieran Harding, managing director, Business in the Community Northern Ireland, said: “Age at Work has been several years in the planning and we are delighted to partner with Age NI in the delivery of such an important, timely and relevant project.

“The invaluable support from the National Lottery Community Fund ensures that we are able to deliver this collaborative initiative that will contribute to the development of Northern Ireland as an advanced knowledge-based society. By helping organisations implement new age-friendly policies and practices they will be able to capitalise on the skills, knowledge and capabilities of older workers.

“I am looking forward to seeing the programme progress and develop over the next five years, and to capturing the learning and knowledge that it will bring to this very important agenda.”

Michele Doran (50), who works as part of First Trust Bank’s Digital Channels team, said: “I really enjoy working and have had opportunities to develop my skills throughout my career, by working in a range of roles, both in the branch and on recent digital projects.

“One of the things I enjoy most about working is the opportunity to build connections and engage with people. I’m also lucky that my employer has been very supportive of my changing lifestyle and needs, including most recently, enabling me to work closer to home, after some health problems.

“I really commend Age NI and Business in the Community on the launch of this exciting project. I think the support being offered to older workers to help them stay connected and have a fuller working life is really valuable.”

Kate Beggs, The National Lottery Community Fund Northern Ireland Director, said: “We’re delighted to be funding the Age at Work project, which focuses on the strengths older people bring to the workforce.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, it will work with older people and employers to help better understand and overcome some of the barriers to finding or staying in work. These include the demands of informal caring, health issues and lack of flexible working options.”