The realisation that there is no online outlet to allow recently unemployed people to communicate spurred a recently redundant worker into action and a new website Halfaloaf.ie has been born.
While the media records on a daily basis Ireland’s surging unemployed population, and as politicians prepare for a three month vacation, the personal and financial plight of people who until recently held jobs and who have valuable experience has been largely ignored.
But enterprising former warehouse manager Tom O’Mahony from Athlone says enough is enough and has started up a new website to allow unemployed workers to communicate, socialise and also contribute business start-up ideas.
“I was made redundant in February of this year. I’m a Cork man living in the Midlands. I discovered that there is no website out there for unemployed people,” said O’Mahony, who I met during a chance encounter in Dublin yesterday.
“Unemployed people are talking to all the agencies FÁS, MABS, social welfare but they can’t talk to each other.
“There’s a lot of social isolation in unemployment and I wanted to do something about that because I felt that myself. You could be at home all day from 8.30am to 5.30pm and you can see no one except the two dogs and you can only walk the dogs so many times.
“My idea is very basic, but simple –a website where people can post social events, whether they are free or to pay into in their area. There is another section called Dole Boredom Solutions, which gives people ideas how to do something with their day like volunteering.
“I think there’s a huge gap out there for volunteer groups to join the website and look for volunteers. All voluntary groups are suffering serious financial downfall and there are thousands of bright, articulate people available to do volunteer work.
“Then there’s a business idea section, where people can throw ideas around share ideas, look for help and get advice.”
O’Mahony agrees that armed with a computer and broadband, potential business owners have the means to do a lot of the groundwork for creating micro businesses.
“But, from that point of view people still need help; do I need an accountant, how do I find this and that, will it affect my dole payments?”
In the first three weeks, 242 people have registered on the Halfaloaf.ie website. “With close to 400,000 people unemployed, it’s clearly a growth market. I’m still job hunting but maybe in 12 months’ time perhaps the site may be a full-time job itself.”
O’Mahony says the business section of the site includes case studies of recently unemployed people who decided to start their own businesses.
“One is a guy who was in construction and was about to emigrate to Holland, but is now manufacturing chicken coups, while another women who was in IT is now making a living out of showing people how to bake bread.”
O’Mahony says his initiative tackles a problem overlooked by media, politicians and the various state agencies that are supposed to support the unemployed.
“Inertia is a huge problem, but apathy is a worse problem and we need to kill that problem. The website is just one step and hopefully it will keep people motivated, focused and connected. The most important thing that unemployed people need to remember is they have something to contribute.”
By John Kennedy