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Not what I was expecting!
Job Centre Plus
Member Name: hcafclaura
Job Centre Plus
Advantages: Staff members who go above and beyond!
Disadvantages: Some staff are rubbish/patronising
Everyone has heard of the Job Centre. They are a government agency, created to assist the public find work, and claim benefits whilst they are doing so.
I graduated from university in July 2010 with a 2.1 degree in Psychology. I managed to find temporary work, but this came to an end in October. I was left with no option but to visit the Job Centre and attempt to claim Job Seekers Allowance. This was something I had desperately been trying to avoid. I see the Job Centre on my way into the city centre, and it is an awful looking place. There's always a gang of teenagers hanging around outside in their tracksuit bottoms with their Tesco value lager. This was not a place I wanted to go, but jobless and moneyless, I had no option.
I completed the initial claims form online. This was quite a simple, though lengthy process. As you would expect, they want to know every single detail about your life so make sure you have all the relevant paper work nearby. You can also complete your initial claim over the telephone if you do not have access to a computer. Once you have completed the form you have to wait up to two working days for a phone call from JCP who will then make an appointment for you at your local job centre. In my case, they rang the next day, and my appointment was just a few days later.
Because I am under 25, I had to go to a group session at my initial meeting. They went through all the obvious things, where to look for work, how to build a CV, that sort of thing. I then had a meeting with my personal advisor. He went over the form I had completed online, checking everything was correct, and that was that. I was given my signing day, which was the same day every week.
Signing on was an experience I was dreading. I did not really know what to expect. However, it really is the simplest process, and I was normally out of the job centre within five minutes. I found it quite disheartening. Not once at any point whilst I was signing on did any of the staff do a job search on their system for me, or look at the extensive list of jobs I had applied for. I would tell them about any interviews I had lined up, but they were not interested. All they ask is what you have been doing to find work so they can check the boxes on their computer and process the money. I was expecting a little more help, and having had this experience I am not surprised so many people get stuck in the system, either through choice or because they just simply do not know how to look for work.
Thirteen Week Meeting
Despite applying for hundreds of jobs, thirteen weeks later I was still having no luck, and received a letter inviting me to a thirteen week interview. This again began with a group session. I found this an extremely patronising experience. We were talked to like we were thick, and this was the reason we was still here. They went over a lot of the same information supplied during the initial meeting, and I did come out feeling like it was a waste of time and money unfortunately.
I then had another meeting with a personal advisor. He went through a lot of information and explained what was happening. I was now going to be moved on to stage two. However, rather than just sticking to the guidelines set out in front of him, he gave me another option. He asked if I would like to be moved on to stage three. During this stage there is an opportunity to find work through the Future Jobs Funds. To summarise, the JCP pay your wages, but these are real jobs, 25 hours a week and minimum wage, but it is a job. He showed me through some of the opportunities and there was a vacancy which jumped out at me. It was exactly the area I wanted to get into. I asked him to go ahead and move me on to the next stage. He did this, and rang the company to refer me for the vacancy and arrange an interview. This man went out of his way for me. He did not have to do this, and in fact ended up going over my allotted time slot to get it all sorted out.
I had the interview for the FJF job yesterday, and two hours later I received the phone call to say I have got the job! It is far from perfect, but it is a start, and without the Job Centre a job I would not have got.
I can see why the Job Centre Plus has such a bad reputation. Some of the staff are useless, and would benefit from more training. Some are patronising, they assume you do not want a job, that you want to be there, and for me this could not have been further from the truth. However there are people there that want to help you, who want to make sure they never see your face again, in the nicest possible way! It's just a shame all those within the JCP are tarred with the same brush.
Summary: Not all the staff are the same!
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