The news comes as the Office for National Statistics announced last week that more than two million people are now out of work in Britain ? the country?s highest unemployment rate in 12 years.

Many shoots are now under pressure to take a decision on whether to commit to running shooting this season.

Some have been forced to take the decision to close or scale back their sport, leading to job losses: ?Almost every day for the past month a keeper has made contact because they have been made redundant,? said Helen. ?The economic uncertainty has forced many shooting estates to re-evaluate their outgoings. As well as registering out-of-work keepers with the GWT as a job seeker, the first thing I tell them is to buy Shooting Times magazine to check for any vacancies being advertised in the magazine. Older keepers tend to be a lot more worried than the younger ones. It is a very physical job and embracing change becomes more difficult. Employers tend to look for younger candidates. In the short term, it is going to be a difficult and challenging time for keepers. I think next year may be similar, but I am optimistic that this will change by 2011.?

One anonymous keeper, recently made redundant from an estate in Scotland, told Shooting Times: ?Gamekeeping is not simply a job, it is a way of life. When I was made redundant, I was given only six weeks to vacate my four-bedroom detached house with 1.5 acres. I had seven dogs at the time, so it was extremely stressful trying to find another home. All the council could offer me was a one-bedroom flat, which was useless to me. It never crossed my mind that I would be made redundant.?

Another keeper, who also wished to remain anonymous, recently lost his job on an estate in the Midlands: ?I have decided to embrace the change and set up my own wildlife management company. I was in a state of shock for a week. It completely devastated my life. I had 10 dogs and two small children. My biggest fear was that I would end up on a council estate in a city, as I could not afford to buy a house in the country. I worked for the estate for the past 11 years and had planned to retire there. I do not have any bad feelings towards my former employers, but I am dubious about going back to gamekeeping.?

Organisations representing keepers are concerned by the high redundancy levels.

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers? Organisation (NGO) told Shooting Times magazine: ?Any job loss is a tragedy for someone, but for gamekeepers there sometimes is also the loss of their home. To have so many redundancies all at once is also bad for the profession. Our industry is not unique in facing financial difficulties. Everyone now understands the consequences of the worst recession in decades. It is fortunate that we have the GWT, which has grown from previous NGO initiatives, to help individuals to find what work there is. Keepers? jobs continue to be advertised in the sporting press, so it is not all gloom and doom. Recessions don?t last for ever.?

A spokesman for the Union of Country Sports Workers (UCSW) said it was worrying news, especially as the recession continues to deepen: ?It is evident that gamekeepers are leaving the industry as budgets tighten and shoots close down or cut staff. Shoots seem to be more affected than other fieldsports and are exercising prudence, which inevitably means redundancies.?

The spokesman added that gamekeepers facing redundancy should seek advice early: ?Assistance is available from the UCSW or the GWT to help ensure those affected receive the correct redundancy payments and any other benefits as well as affecting guidance on housing issues where appropriate.?

For more information contact the GWT on 01677 470180 or the UCSW on 01295 712719.

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