I was a bit late for work yesterday. Our office is in Stapleford and there had been an accident on the A52 so the traffic was horrendous. Everyone else who drove in had experienced the same; never mind, just one of those things. A couple of hours later and one of our peer educators calls. She’s in tears, tells us she feels “humiliated and ashamed” after her Jobcentre appointment and needed to come in. Ashley volunteers as a peer educator for BYH, she comes into schools to share her teenage experience of homelessness with other young people. She’s really good at it too; she has discovered a real talent for engaging with people and wants to use the skills and training she’s gained as a volunteer to pursue a career in care or support work. She looks for and applies for jobs, although she is often disheartened when she receives no acknowledgment.
Anyway, Ashley got to the office and was very distressed – mostly by the unfairness: she’d tried to be on time, she thought she knew where she was going, she wants to work – yet she still felt embarrassed, ashamed and that she had just come within a whisker of losing her income completely…
“My experience with the Jobcentre Plus is nightmare completely. On the 26th November I had an appointment at a Jobcentre on Parliament Street in Nottingham City – I usually go to Beeston but have changed because of the work programme finishing. My appointment was at 9am so I left at 8am. I left my flat to catch the number 14 bus which didn’t turn up until 8.20am because the traffic in Stapleford was ridiculous. I got on the bus and we didn’t move for 20 minutes and it was 8.40 am…well, everyone on the bus was getting agitated because people had work or appointments to get to like me. Finally we started moving properly and I was like, “I’m going to be late, I’ve got 20 minutes to get there”. We got to Priory Island and there was more traffic – I finally got to town half an hour late. I power walked to the Jobcentre opposite the bus station. I spoke to a lovely man, I told him that I had been in traffic for over an hour from Stapleford. He said “you’ve come to wrong Jobcentre!”
Now, at this point I thinking can my day get any worse?” He asked me politely, “Do you know your way around the town centre?” I said no, I don’t like the area so I don’t come over there much. He gave me directions and said he’d write down on my record that I had turned up but at the wrong place and was on my way to Parliament Street. By this point it was getting later and I was getting lost – I rang my friend and got directions while she stayed on the phone till I got there.
I told the reception why I was late and followed her in. A man said “Come here”, so I did and he said “ I’ve got to rebook you for 3pm”. I said I can’t, I had got voluntary work. He asked what I did and I said talking to young people about homelessness. He was being sarky, saying “oh right, brill”, raising his eyes, “well, sit over there and wait”. I thought fair enough, so I waited for nearly half an hour to see him.
He said “Why are you so late?” so I told him I was in traffic from Stapleford. He said “well my daughter in law is from there and she can get in on time”. He said well this is like a job, you have to be on time”. I told him that I’d left at 8am, feeling confused. He said if this was a job I’d be sacked. I said I bet sometimes you lot are late but he didn’t reply, just said he had to be quick as he had other people to see. He went through it, saying if I don’t apply for 40 jobs a week I’ll be sanctioned, if I don’t answer my phone to them I’ll be sanctioned, if they ring and say I have to go in everyday and I don’t I’ll be sanctioned – basically if you don’t do as we say you’ll be sanctioned. I asked how can I do all this when I live on my own and he said that living on my own is a luxury, move back to your mum’s.
I said that my money goes on bills, food and bus fare and he said “not my problem”. He didn’t believe I had a session [volunteering with BYH] that day, wanted numbers and names, but eventually he signed me on. He asked what I do as a volunteer and I said that as I’ve been homeless before I volunteer with BYH, going into schools talking about risks and awareness of homelessness. He looked at me in disgust, looked down his nose at me. I felt intimidated and upset when it was finally over.
I left then burst into tears, went to BYH and told them what happened and broke down. I so want a job, I never ever want to feel like that again.”