Mental health / Working

I Had An Incredibly Positive Experience At The Job Centre. No, Really…

“It is great to be a blonde. With low expectations it’s very easy to surprise people.” ~ Pamela Anderson

It would be hard to overstate how worried I was when I arrived at my first meeting with my Job Centre Plus adviser back in December. I expected it to be absolutely horrendous. I mean, I was part way convinced that my involvement with the Job Centre would result in me, and possibly even my housemate, ending up in jail.

This is partly because I’d become really unwell again. The bit that I was least looking forward to was having to explain that I hadn’t managed to do a single one of the ‘job seeking activities’ that had been assigned to me because the last week had been largely taken up by all the medical and social work appointments that I’d been given as a result of the overdose I’d recently taken. And that during the waking hours when I hadn’t been dealing with those things I just hadn’t been in the right frame of mind to look for work with any degree of effectiveness. It’s a bit hard to sell a potential new employer on what a perfect fit you are for whatever role they’re advertising when you’re not sure you even want to live until the date of the interview.

Partly it was because of the deluge of negative publicity that has surrounded the Job Centre and the Department for Work and Pensions over the last few years, particularly with regards to their lack of sympathy for sick or potentially vulnerable people. I was sure that I was going to be in trouble with this adviser person straight off the bat because he’d see me as an easy way to work towards his target to sanction as many people as possible for not complying with the rules for claiming job seeker’s allowance.

I’d even read somewhere that some Job Centre’s were misusing the Terrorism Acts to investigate people in trying to dig up spurious evidence of benefit fraud. And I somehow believed that this was what would happen to me, and that there was no way that I would make it through the process with out at the very least facing court proceedings on the basis of I have absolutely no idea what. I certainly hadn’t done anything to warrant this line of thinking. But paranoia is a part of my PTSD.

Anyway, I was very pleasantly surprised.

My adviser was perfectly approachable; very down to earth and friendly.

I blurted out right at the beginning that I hadn’t been able to do any job seeking lately and explained the reason. If the guy was fazed by this it didn’t show. He thanked me for telling him, was nice about it, and then moved on to talking about his role and how job seeker’s allowance worked.

But the thing that made the appointment such a positive experience, and in fact possibly made it the most useful meeting I’d had about my mental health all week, was that when he got through all that he returned to what I’d said at the beginning.

He asked me the standard questions that anyone who potentially owes you a duty of care will ask you if you mention anything to do with suicide; and then he asked about my mental health history, particularly work history in regards to my mental health.

I told him what had happened with my losing a job and having job offers with drawn due to mental illness over the last couple of years, and not only was it clear that he really understood the issues involved in that, but he talked about how that would have created extra hurdles for me to overcome when looking for work in terms of loss of confidence and fear of continuing to be stigmatised. He was really sympathetic and offered me some genuinely helpful advice.

He also went on to give me some really helpful information about my employment rights as a person who is now regarded as having a disability, and explained what I do and don’t have to disclose about my medical history at each stage of a recruitment process. Which was really useful as I hadn’t really been sure about this before.

And then he explained to me why based on my CV as well as things that he’d picked up through talking to me he was confident that I was still very employable and that I was going to be okay.

I eventually left the Job Centre feeling a lot calmer and much more confident than I’d felt in a while. And you could have knocked me down with a feather I was that surprised.

I’ve had to sign on I think it’s four times now, and my adviser has continued to be fantastic. He’s understanding of my anxiety and continues to be helpful and supportive. He even emails me to make sure I’m doing alright and to make sure that I know that I can ask him if I need any help.

So, while I’m very aware that the same can’t be said for everybody, I felt I should say that I really can’t speak more highly of my experience at the Job Centre.

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16 thoughts on “I Had An Incredibly Positive Experience At The Job Centre. No, Really…

  1. Once in a while you get lucky and get a human being instead of a government drone. Even the government needs to think outside the box at times, and this guy obviously does. It’s always nice to see someone take the time with people and help boost them up instead of making them feel worse.

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  2. I’m so pleased it went well for you and that not everyone believes the Daily Mail’s assumption that anyone out of work is a workshy scrounger. I wish you well in your job search – your adviser sounds like he will be able to offer genuine help

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      • i like the fact that you’ve “agreed that I’m not actually quite up to working” rather than him bullying you into going on interviews, applying for inappropriate jobs etc etc just to fill a quota or because he thinks you should be working. Well done him! With support like that, your journey back to work and health will be a shorter and smoother one im sure

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        • Yeah, he was the one who brought it up actually. Which was helpful because I was really worried about what might happen if I said I didn’t think I was really ready to go back to work. I wasn’t sure if the government would see me as being sick enough seen as how my illness is mental rather than physical. Hopefully when I am well again there’ll be a job for me back at the place I was working over summer, the guy who replaced me is looking to leave in a few months time.

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          • to be political for a moment, whether the government would see you as sick enough is debatable. But this public servant on the front line is using his common sense and understanding your circumstances and i applaud him for that.
            and also I applaud YOU for your positive outlook and seeing the possibilty of work at the end of this. I know it must be tough and there may be down days when you can’t see the light but hopefully those become less.

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            • He has been quite scathing about the way the system has treated people with mental health issues in the past; but he reckons that it has improved to some extent, and also that the assessors lack of medical training might actually count in my favour. He thinks if I just show them my arms they’ll be scared and just agree with what we’re going to tell them in terms of what I’m capable of.

              And thank you, although it mostly feels like I’m going around in circles at the moment.

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  3. It’s always gratifying to know that there are good civil servants in one of the most important public service avenues. I hope more people have such positive experiences.

    I’m glad you felt supported and heard- so, so, so very important!

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    • So do I, I’m hoping that the reason that I’d only heard the bad stories is that, understandably, they’re the ones people tend to shout about and there are actually a bunch of decent advisors out there who aren’t getting the credit they deserve.

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  4. My advisor at the job centre was wheelchair bound. After explaining to her about my borderline she told me “That [life] must be really hard for me”. I know she meant well, but I really couldn’t help but giggle.

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