I sent this to like. Nearly everyone.
To Whom it May Concern,
I’m writing with regards to my very first experience visiting the Job Centre. I have been on various benefits, such as ESA and PIP – I have had extensive contact with many civil servants (most of which was unacceptable) and I’ve not often taken it upon myself to write about it, before.
For many people, visiting a Job Centre is embarrassing and somewhat demeaning, but for me – it is a positive reclamation of my personal liberty – something I felt robbed of.
I would like to describe my experience at length and I hope it can shed some light on what it feels like to exercise a civil liberty that is not available to people in my various countries of origin – I’m grateful to reside in the United Kingdom because I know that there are opportunities here that don’t yet exist elsewhere.
I’ve emailed this letter to various addressees as I’m unsure of who the correct recipient would be. I think it is a valuable read whether it is intended to your reception or not and it is absolutely sincere. I thank you in advance for any time taken to read it.
On Thursday the 24th of January I visited my local Job Centre. I wanted to offer a statement about my experience accompanied by some suggestions for improvement. These are all very humble suggestions and I believe only a chat would suffice – to instigate these changes.
The Office is not too far from a Hindu temple that I struggle to believe that the council has funded adequately, I’d of liked to of visited after my appointment but I didn’t find the time.
The businesses adjacent to the Centre are well kept, though I imagine they suffer from the Job Centre’s garishly selected marketing.
It seems that the area has the potential to be quite beautiful and quite well kept – and inviting.
The centre is an eyesore inside and out and the entrance is not discreet. I appreciate that the building requires some visibility, but I would think it better if people’s engagement with the services offered some privacy, especially as it is situated on such a busy road. Being unemployed does not have to be so inelegant.
I understand that graphic design is expensive, and I’d love to offer my services free of charge to the redesign of an entrance that local businesses and attendees at the institution do not feel embarrassed to engage with.
I was greeted abruptly by a security guard, whose body language and tone of voice were, apparently intended to be intimidating in nature. Perhaps teaching the greeting staff to say “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” is worth consideration, especially if they are representatives of a governmental nature.
He then politely directed me as to where I ought to go for my appointment. I noticed that there were items left unattended in the seating area with some frequency, including bags – even though there were many greeting staff and plenty of staff who did not appear to be working at all. Where public safety is concerned, I noticed that there were mothers carrying infants – and I would advise that nondescript bags should be immediately dealt with by staff, especially as governmental buildings ought to be regarded as secure. Particularly when we are technically in a state of war, with military service men and women being stationed in various countries throughout the World.
A particular plastic bag had been forgotten beside me by a gentleman who was admittedly swiftly seen to by what I imagine was his appointed interviewer – I did not identify that there was any danger attached to the bag and my intuition is very rarely inaccurate, but the lack of care in your numerous greeting staff whose eyes were on me rather than the upkeep of a safe environment did invite some concern.
In fact I thought it was pleasant that the staff on the entrance floor all noticed my entrance, even if they were dealing with queries. Very observant. I almost felt as though my attendance had been discussed amongst staff.
In rural towns it is not uncommon for people to acknowledge a guest with a “Good Morning” or a “Good Afternoon”, it is not uncommon in retail either.
The building itself was improperly taken care of. There was litter throughout the corridors, which I’d of picked up myself if I was not about to attend an interview.
I briefly glanced into what I later realised were the staff loos – which were of course, locked to the public. I noticed that there was litter on the floors in there, too. In the entrance.
I enjoy mess, I enjoy an untidy bedroom – I enjoy a lifestyle that embraces fun and more than anything I value the idea that people don’t have to adhere to dystopian order to be of service to society: but I personally think it’s in very poor taste to mistreat an office in that way.
Particularly an office where the staff ought to be setting an example as to how to uphold a professional demeanour that will invite prospective employers to want to hire their interviewees. I felt that many of the staff were poorly presented, perhaps they aren’t paid enough to be able to afford to maintain their appearance or purchase garments that would encourage their interviewees to dress as they would for a job interview. I do know that Emirates provides their staff with an allowance specifically for their appearance, I’d advise the same for your own staff.
Many people are presently unemployed, and truly it is a quiet insult for a person who is not employed to think “why on EARTH are you working here?!”
That is – there were many staff who were doing absolutely nothing at all to earn their wages, and I arrived at least half an hour before my appointment.
When I worked at a bar, I was criticised on one occasion for putting in minimal effort towards my appearance. The chat was valuable for me, because it taught me the importance of personal presentation in a professional setting. Even in such a humble employment, as working for a bar is.
When I did bar work I was constantly on my feet, constantly doing something to be of use. If I was seen not putting my wages to good use, I would be penalised. I did not have chats with customers I was not actively serving, I spent perhaps ten minutes of otherwise difficult and non-stop, demanding work periods taking a break to physically recover because the work is strenuous.
Bar work is physically demanding and painful, trenchfoot appears on your hands at a point, and it’s especially tiring for introverts – who expend energy upon contact of any kind – with an ‘eye for detail’ who cannot afford glasses.
If I had spent the period I had to be filtered through various professionals in that office doing nothing, as the staff in that office were, I’d of lost my job. I entered at quarter to three in the afternoon and I left at closing time. Throughout that period – there were staff relaxing and gossiping, and observing me.
After a period of feeling that it wasn’t appropriate to seek financial assistance because I was not yet in a position to be sincere in a search for employment; due to suffering with severe trauma – I finally felt ready to seek financial assistance and honestly attempt to restart my life.
This interview was, for me, a very significant stepping stone to returning to what my life was, prior to a very distressing series of events that involved serious bullying, stalking and being ultimately left incapacitated and living in absolute fear after being sexually abused by members of the police and various medical professionals associated with the NHS.
I was rather forced to have to explain my personal circumstances to two professionals at the Job Centre, really in an attempt to humbly invite them to exercise some empathy and sensitivity to my circumstances and even leniency or determination to push my case a long even in the absence of documents I had no access to. I was not met with that.
The first lady I met with, was a lady called Sharon. She did not consider my evidence properly, and where she could have endeavoured to offer some sensitivity – I certainly invited her to, explaining that I had had a very difficult time prior to the appointment and most importantly – that it was extremely difficult for me to be engaging with the service at all, as I feel that my circumstances are more fortunate than most civilians, who are not as I am – fed and housed by their mother.
Rudeness and insensitivity are not crimes but I do find they are unprofessional in a setting that demands such vulnerable dialogue – and poor manners certainly don’t reflect at all what it is that I have come to value about being a British passport holder.
Sharon had no manners and she had no regard for the absolute importance of being of service, especially with the sensitive nature of her position that affords her access to deeply personal information. I believe that she acquired a lot of personal power from knowing that I needed her help, rather than a sense of deep responsibility which would have been much more appropriate.
Sharon stood up at one point during our interview to have a chat with some ladies at a desk opposite hers. She discussed my personal details. Unprofessional as it was for her to do that, I’m glad she did because as a result Sharon’s colleague offered to take my case herself, stating that the evidence provided was adequate. Sharon was unhappy with this and went to fetch her team leader, with whom she had privately discussed our poor interview. The Team Leader was incompetent and I believe that out of some desire towards camaraderie, she sided with Sharon in what became a confrontation. She spoke to me rather patronisingly and sought not to help, but to further waste my time by only validating Sharon’s opinions.
I found both to be entirely disingenuous, rather rude and obnoxious if subtle about it. To be clear and to reiterate – it isn’t a crime but it is wrong and unacceptable. I had to apologise for being upset – on numerous occasions – because I was not being properly served. I returned their rudeness and tone of voice and I feel I stooped to a manner that was beneath me, particularly when it was employment being discussed.
Sharon created a scene with me and her superior, amongst her colleagues – and that garnered a lot of undesired attention to me and my circumstances. I’d have preferred a discreet conversation and that was not at all what I was met with. I’m appalled that I had to be a part of that.
I would now like to commend your staff member Punita, who kindly stepped in to help me.
She was extremely kind, helpful, sensitive and quite frankly she diffused the situation with such subtle sincerity and grace – that I found I could discuss my difficult circumstances without concern for the attention that had been drawn to me – and quite able to forget the rudeness and conflict I had been met with. By the time she reached me, I was in a state of distress and I was struggling to communicate with any kind of coherency and she some how managed to help me unaffected by that also.
I am so full of gratitude that I was almost brought to tears at how fortunate I was that she was working on that day.
I’m surprised that she is working in the Ealing offices because I imagine she could work anywhere.
It felt almost as though she was doing humanitarian work by expending such tremendous efforts to assist me, as I’m sure you would know better than I do that the unemployment benefits office deals with people who are destitute and I imagine that without really knowing it, Punita likely has saved people’s lives: just through her ability to listen and determination to be of service even if it is at some kind of cost to her relationship with her co-workers.
Which I’m sure must of been a source of embarrassment to her colleagues.
Which I’m sure must of been a source of embarrassment to her colleagues.
Please do convey a message to Punita’s coworkers that their employment is not an opportunity to exact unacceptable authority over people who are suffering in our economy, but to use their positions to be helpful and supportive to victims of society.
I hope that Punita is not mistreated, for offering me so much help – and I am concerned that she might be if I do not verbalise what I feel to be the true nature of the ladies I met with: Sharon and the allocated ‘team leader’. I resent the idea of someone’s career being jeopardised because they chose to be kind to me and it would not be the first time that has happened.
Thankyou kindly in advance for any attention regarded to this letter, I hope you have a lovely day.