Recently, I had to go to the Jobcentre for the first time.
Last year, I was reassessed for my benefits, and was told I had been put in to the work-related activity group of Employment Support Allowance. Because of that, they said I had to go to the Jobcentre. But, the letter that I was sent, didn’t really explain why. That made it nerve-wracking.
To be honest, it was all scary, very scary. I was worried because I already work and I can’t do any more hours than I do now because of my health and my learning disability. If I had to work more, my health would suffer. I didn’t know what they’re going to say when I got there – I was worried they might say ‘you need to do more hours’, or that they would stop my benefits.
To get to the Jobcentre we had to take the bus. The whole way there I felt nervous but I was glad that Sandy, my fiancée had come with me for support. We made sure we were early but had to wait for a bit. There were a lot of people there, which made me quite anxious.
After a while a woman, a specialist for people with disabilities, came to get me. We sat down, and started talking and she told me, ‘don’t worry about anything, we’re not here to pressure you, we’re here to give you support’. She was a very nice person. She said, ‘we’re not telling you to work more or telling you what to do, we’re just here to help you. If you have any questions, or if you want to try different jobs, give us a call and we’ll help you’.
I was quite shocked. I’d been so nervous and she really helped me relax. Then we just started chatting. We talked about how I found my job at Mencap, where I work one afternoon a week, and how I’d been there about 15 years. I asked her questions so I could understand what was going on, and she was very helpful. After my appointment, she told me I’d need to come back in 6 or 7 weeks’ time for another appointment. She said, ‘don’t worry, everyone gets nervous in these sort of places, we’re here to help. If you have any problems at all, just let me know’.
She was kind, used accessible language and was really calm. I understood her. I was given the basics and had the process explained well. They know I work at Mencap and about my disability. I think it’s great that they had a disability specialist there – that was who I spoke to – she really made me feel comfortable. I was quite surprised because I just thought the staff wouldn’t care.
I don’t mind having to go back now because I know someone will be there that understands my disability. I had been really nervous at first. When I don’t know what’s going on, or I’m in a new environment, it can be really stressful. But she really helped me understand what was going on and I now feel a lot more comfortable about the whole thing, and I know I can ask more things next time.
I think there should be someone like the person that helped me in every Jobcentre, to help people with disabilities, just like me.