Proud to do his bit during the Covid-19 crisis
 
The calming and measured tone of Manu Patel is one of the first voices that worried callers hear when they ring a Covid-19 helpline regarding their symptoms.
 
Until recently, Preston resident Manu had been out of work for 12 months until he was supported into his current employment by the Work and Health Programme, known locally as Work and Health North West, which helps those who have been unemployed for a long time, as well as people with health conditions, into work.
 
Aged 59, father of two Manu had been looking for new employment following the closure of a fast food restaurant, where he had been the manager. Now Manu is encouraging his two sons to also apply for similar vacancies to help during the current health crisis.
 
“I feel very proud that I am able to do my bit during these difficult times,” explained Manu, who lives with his family in Fulwood.
 
Manu is based at a call centre in Preston and he speaks mainly to directed callers who are concerned about their own symptoms in regard to Covid-19. He had worked all his adult life in the restaurant sector and had never experienced a period of unemployment until last year. He commented: “I applied for vacancies that were relevant to my expertise, but I felt that employers were deterred by my age. I hated to be out of work and I became quite depressed at my lack of success.”
 
Manu was referred by Peter Hudson, work advisor with Jobcentre Plus, to Work and Health North West in October2019. He received help to improve his computer skills and was advised to apply for relevant vacancies that required experience in dealing with the public.
 
Key worker Ian Colwyn with Work and Health Programme North West said: “We revised Manu’s CV and helped him to apply for several job opportunities. He has a fantastic work ethic and was very keen to be considered for other roles not necessarily in the restaurant trade.”
 
Answering the call in a national emergency

“It is important to keep calm in my role and ensure that if a caller is very worried when they ring, I can still gather the relevant information,” Manu added. “I may advise them on self-isolation or pass them onto another colleague for further advice.
 
“I am now asking my grown-up children to apply for call handler positions. One son has come home early from university and his brother was completing his ‘A’ level studies. We all have to play our part during this national emergency.”
 
The Work and Health North West, delivered by employment specialist Ingeus, is commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions and receives support from the European Social Fund.