Special efforts to help jobseekers in the 'Ghost Town' of the Midlands

Each lost job means the loss of so much more than mere work.

Just ask father and son, Paul and Lee.

"It was a big blow to me," says Paul, before adding: "Because I met all my friends there. They were as gutted as I was when I was made redundant."

Lee adds: "I was gaining my confidence. Feeling comfortable. Now that’s all gone."

Father and son Paul and Lee have said being unemployed is a big blow to their confidence. Credit: ITV News

We’re in Coventry where 50,000 workers - one in three workers - were furloughed at the height of lockdown.

Many fear they’ll be no job to return to. Many others have already been laid off.

Steve Bryer is out of work for the first time in his life.

He’s a skilled engineer but he’s retraining to work in security.

"Any job is better than none," he tells me.

Amid the shuttered store fronts, Steve is among the customers in one city centre shop doing brisk business.

We're visiting the council's job shop - where a dedicated team offer practical advice and tangible help to the Covid-created ranks of unemployed.

In the West Midlands region, youth unemployment has risen by 91%.

'Every little rejection just puts you down even more', Ionna Zaraf tells John Ray

There’s been a 71% rise in Universal Credit claims. In the over fifties age group, unemployment is at the highest level since comparable records began in 1985.

Daryl Hoyle is worried. She lost her retail job just as Coventry entered lockdown.

"There’re so many people unemployed and I’m not being funny but at a certain age you think, 'Who are they going to take on'?"

Daryl Hoyle lost her retail job just as Coventry entered lockdown. Credit: ITV News

Daryl is of a vintage to remember when Coventry was, in the words of local band The Specials, A Ghost Town – the chart-topping 1981 lament for lost jobs and lost industry.

In Coventry, once Britain’s own motor city, the grim era marked the steep decline of the car industry.

"My dad was a car worker and he was made redundant," says Daryl.

"He ended up as a caretaker for the council.

"It’s a ghost town again. But now not only are there no car factories, all the shops are shut too," she says.

Today’s unemployment figures point towards the biggest down-turn since records began in 1955.

Andy Fish, an adviser at the Job Shop, tells me he can’t recall a bleaker period.

"We see desperate people all the time. They need help."

He adds: "We have our doors open and we will listen to their personal stories."

"Coventry has been damaged before and it will rise again."

"There is a skilled workforce out there. We just need the funding to help matchthem to jobs."

  • 'I've been unemployed since May so that's a couple of months that I will never get back...I will never see £1,000 coming out of my wage and when you add that up it makes a difference long-term,' Haroon Ishtaq tells John Ray

Turn left out of the railway station, and there are signs of economic life.

Construction workers in hard hats and hi vis jackets busy on a new development.

And next year Coventry will be the UK’s City of Culture.

The modern cathedral, built next door to the Gothic masterpiece destroyed in the Coventry Blitz of 1940, is a symbol of the city's power to overcome calamity.

But it’s always been a struggle and with this coronavirus crisis, no one can tell when the rebuilding work can even begin.