Job rejections left man with sight problems feeling 'on the scrapheap'

A man with a visual impairment from Castle Cary says he felt he was ‘on the scrapheap’ after being consistently turned down for jobs.

Mark Catton says he was even let go just weeks into a role, with his boss saying he was worried about him having an accident because of his sight.

Mark eventually came across a government programme called SWAP, which led to him finally getting a job at the NHS in Somerset.

Mark, 60, had been out of work since being made redundant during the Covid-19 pandemic over four years ago. He said the job application process shattered his confidence.

Mark Catton now works at Yeovil District Hospital Credit: ITV News

Mark has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a condition where cells in the retina die which leads to sight loss. As a result, Mark has faced difficulty applying for work, adding he felt his age and condition meant some employers did not want to take the chance on him.

However, after turning to his local Jobcentre he was signed up to a Sector-based Workplace Academy Programme (SWAP) and within weeks, Mark was offered his job at Yeovil Hospital.

SWAP helps tackle unemployment in key sectors through work experience, coaching and intensive interview support.

Joining in November 2023, Mark settled in well as an estates administrator where he, and his guide dog Nathan, support the smooth running of the hospital – from answering requests for repairs, security and document filing.

Mark's guide dog Nathan. Credit: ITV News

Mark said: “I feel so privileged to have got this job for so many reasons. My life has been changed so very much and all in such an unbelievable way – I’m now enjoying life and work.

"This has been such a big change in my life, from being way down there on the scrapheap to seeing this opportunity opening up.

"I’m so thankful to my colleagues for being so supportive. I’m loving life to the fullest and want to say a huge thank you to the SWAP team for turning my life around”

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Mims Davies MP, said: “Mark’s story is incredibly inspiring and to see how the support of his work coaches and colleagues has given him a chance to shine in a new role is amazing.

"We know there are thousands of people out there, like Mark, who want to work but need a bit of support, and we, at the Department for Work and Pensions, are here to help.

"I wish Mark, and Nathan, all the best in their new role and encourage others to tap into the support and expertise available in our Jobcentres."

Anna Taylor, future workforce project coordinator at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Seeing the way the SWAP has transformed Mark’s life, not just in finding him a career, but also helping him to regain his confidence and sense of purpose, has been fantastic to see.

"Mark is now in a job at the trust where he’s greatly valued by his team, and it’s clear that he’s thoroughly enjoying his new role. Mark’s an amazing ambassador for our trust, and an inspiration to everyone he meets.”

Adjustments for Mark and Nathan were made by his employer with new larger keyboards and monitors, a rest area for Nathan, and flexible rotas to make his travel easier.