Interview with Nick Ruck
Nick Ruck describes himself as a “real Islingtonian”. Born at the Whittington Hospital and raised in the borough, he spent most of his adult life working for the people of Islington.
He was employed by the local council for a quarter of a century, as a park keeper, an admin. officer and a housing assistant. But when he lost his job four years ago at the age of fifty, he became isolated from the people around him. He worked part-time for a security company for a while at big music and sporting events, but then the jobs stopped.
“It has been painful,” says Nick. “There have been times when I’ve been really depressed. Really down. It is soul-destroying, shattering. You think something will come along but the work has really dried up and positions are hard to find.
“It just goes on. I’d explain it as being on a slide. You are on that slide and you can’t get off it. You just keep going down and it is horrendous to be honest.”
Nick says he doesn’t know what he would have done without Help on Your Doorstep, a local charity that helps link people on Islington housing estates to the services they need. It does this is the most direct and humane way imaginable: by knocking on people’s doors and asking if they need help. Working in teams of two, the charity targets residents on low incomes and benefits to ensure they do not slip through the net.
The project began in EC1 in 2005, but now operates in Canonbury, Finsbury Park and the Caledonian Road area.
Nick was volunteering at his local community centre when he was referred to Help on Your Doorstep: “They helped me put some blinds on my window, through the Cripplegate Foundation, they put me in touch with a charity that helped me with my electricity and my gas bills, which I was having trouble with.”
Ultimately Nick wants to get back to work: “Work gives you self-esteem as well as the finances,” he says. “You can support yourself and you don’t have to be going and asking people. You can feel proud. When someone asks you, you can say what you do.”
Help on Your Doorstep has also assisted Nick to find courses to improve his skills and increase his chances of getting work.
“I can’t praise them enough for what they have done for me,” he says. “Every problem that’s been put forward, they do everything they can. It’s marvellous what they do.”
As I leave his flat, Nick pays a personal tribute to Barbara Clarke, the woman from Help on Your Doorstep who first made contact with him. “She’s been working tirelessly. It must be very stressful for her,” he says. Barbara is sitting next to me as I interview Nick and the bond they have built up is clear. And this is the real point about the work carried out by this small organisation. Personal connections built up by the policy of systematic doorknocking are transformed into practical help that means that people are not left to cope alone.
Nick Ruck was interviewed by Martin Bright, the founder and Chief Executive of New Deal of the Mind which finds work for the unemployed of Islington and elsewhere in the creative industries.