EGLINTON Park’s senior caretaker says that a council programme helped him deal with the struggles of mental health.

After continuously trying – and failing – to find employment after 12-years out of work, Derek Anderson, from Kilbirnie, found himself starting to suffer.

He said: “My confidence was plummeting and my anxiety was getting worse than ever before. I decided then that I had to do something to make things better for myself, rather than let them get any worse.”

Things changed for Derek, 34, when he was given a chance at CEIS Ayrshire.

He said: “I worked closely with one of the advisors at CEIS who pulled together a range of courses and tasks that helped me address some of the issues I was encountering with employers. One of the major challenges was trying to explain the 12-year gap in my CV. At the time, I didn’t have anything to show for my work absence and lacked some of the vital skills required for the workplace. But Cheryl, the advisor, supported me through a number of skills and training courses to ensure I was well-equipped when it came to employment.”

As Derek’s achievements grew, he soon felt ready again to tackle the job search again. When the council’s Employability and Skills team reached out to CEIS looking for nominations for their six-month Skills for Life programme, Derek was one of 24 people selected.

This saw him taking up a placement as a caretaker at Eglinton Country Park, which later led to a post as an estates assistant, and recently saw him selected for a secondment as senior caretaker.

He said: “I felt empowered and proud of where my life was heading.”

Derek has also been asked to be an ambassador for the Skills for Life programme which will allow him to share his experience with others who are struggling with unemployment in an attempt to inspire them and show them that they can turn things around – just like he did.

He said: “It has been life changing for me. There’s no other way to describe it. I’m proud to have a job I enjoy and hope that my story will give others the motivation to do the same.”

Caitriona McAuley, Head of Economic Growth at North Ayrshire Council, said: “Skills for Life is an excellent programme as it provides those struggling with unemployment with a real and meaningful opportunity to gain the confidence and skills required for work. The programme has received excellent feedback thanks to the dedication of its participants such as Derek.

“Derek grabbed the opportunity in both hands and has proven himself to be an outstanding and valuable member of the team. He’s a great asset to the council and we are delighted to have played a role in helping him make a positive difference to his life.”