Photo credit: Eleanor Martin Photography

In 2017, David Shutts OBE was faced with a dilemma. Despite several decades of a successful career in the Royal Navy and later as a regional business director, he suddenly found himself completely isolated from the world of work. And why? Because he had been diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer.

Although the physical symptoms of the disease robbed him of his energy and made everyday life more difficult, David knew that he wanted to work and still had a wealth of valuable skills to offer. The challenge was finding a flexible, inclusive role that would fit alongside his treatment and condition management. Like hundreds of thousands of people with long-term conditions, he craved the sense of purpose and social environment that meaningful work can provide, but discovered that finding such opportunities was a profound challenge in itself.

Through his tenacity, David did manage to find suitable work opportunities and create his own, but his eyes had been opened to a profound issue in the world of employment. Therefore, he founded the charitable organisation Astriid in order to support others facing similar barriers. Sadly, David passed away in 2018. Astriid is a significant part of his legacy, and since then our work and impact, underpinned by David’s core message, has only continued to grow.

So, what do we do? Astriid is an organisation that connects skilled individuals with long-term health conditions with meaningful opportunities to work. In the past this has taken the form of one-to-one mentoring and support for candidates, helping them to identify their goals and access needs and go on to find suitable opportunities. Today, we focus on communicating valuable information, in the form of free downloadable resources and bespoke webinars, around widespread issues in work that often go unspoken about. Not everybody with a chronic illness can work, but we exist to support those who want to find meaningful roles. We aim to remind this population of their worth and all they have to offer and arm them with knowledge so they can access opportunities of the calibre they deserve.

At the same time, we also work with businesses and organisations through Astriid Consulting to help them evolve their inclusive working practice. We show them how to ensure their recruitment processes are accommodating so they can acquire new talent, and also how to better support and retain people with long-term conditions in their existing workforce. We also facilitate impactful research reports, which shine a light on the issues that currently disadvantage people with long-term conditions in the world of work. Our Employment and Long Term-Illness Report in 2021 was the first of its kind, and our more recent Making Employment Work Report in 2023 identifies powerful health-related and social barriers in this field and how they can be overcome.

We see the untapped talent pool of people living with long-term illness as an ideal solution for the current UK skills crisis. By offering flexible roles and evolving their workplace practice, organisations can access a wealth of skilled individuals to support their mission, while these individuals can experience the benefits of being in work in a way that’s genuinely sustainable alongside their condition management.

Astriid is run by a small internal team with big ambitions. Every team member has lived experience of long-term conditions themselves and have become subject experts in the field of inclusive working. We combine our unrivalled industry knowledge with our personal experiences and perceptions, to help make the world of work a more accessible place for all. But we cannot tackle this challenge alone, and so our charity is constantly searching for organisations that share our ambitious agenda.

Bain and Gray are an excellent example of an organisation that values diversity and creative thinking, and we’re extremely grateful for their support. Over the coming months, we will be partnering with them to tell you more about our work and share some of our valuable insights into how candidates and clients can make the most of the untapped talent pool that’s out there. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, you can find out more about Astriid on our website, read our latest news updates and blog posts, and listen to some of our many Success Stories on YouTube. Businesses and organisations can also find out more about our consultancy and training offer via Astriid Consulting!