The participants, having enjoyed sharing what they hate about the JobCentre, are a little taken aback at having to see the situation from the other side. Everyone’s quiet as they try to imagine the scenario from the opposite angle. Cath suggests that the advisors will have targets and be under pressure to meet those targets.
“They still don’t have to talk to people the way they do,” says Morag. “They could talk to people nicely.”
“They must be like us though,” says a woman in a red top. “They must have good days and bad days.”
“What happens, do you think, when they leave the Jobcentre at the end of the day?” asks Cath.
“They forget about us,” says Morag.
“How do you know that?”
“I don’t. But that’s what I would do. I wouldn’t want to go home with my work.”
“But they’re not put in a cupboard to be recharged for the next day, are they?”
“They probably have pressures of their own,” says the woman in red, as the penny starts to drop.
“They are human beings like we are and they’ll have the same pressures: our bills, our debts, kids in trouble. Just because they are Jobcentre advisors doesn’t mean they’re not living every day like we are. And then they’ve got the likes of Mr Cameron telling them they’ve each got to get, say, 120 people into a job this month.”
“When there aren’t any,” someone says.
“When there aren’t any,” repeats Cath. “So, do you think they feel pressure? Of course they do. Even before they open the door to you guys.”
“And then we knock on the door,” laughs one of the men.
“Do you think they feel insecure? Is there a chance on it?” continues Cath. “With all that they have going on, do you think there’s a chance some of them might feel insecure?”
There are reluctant nods from around the room.
“So, what do you think would help your next visit to the Jobcentre? What could you do?”
“Smile,” someone says quietly as if breaking ranks.
“Walk towards them smiling,” repeats Cath.
Ten minutes ago it would have been like throwing a hand grenade into the room if someone had suggested smiling at a JobCentre advisor but Cath has got them there – most of them anyway – and now the group realise that it’s their own attitude that affects the outcome of their Jobcentre experience.
“Won’t it get me into trouble though?” asks Morag.
“When was the last time anyone was imprisoned for smiling?” suggests Cath, with a big grin. “If you understand a bit more about them and have more self awareness about yourself then you can actually help to change their approach towards you.
“It’s about making it a win-win situation for you. And please don’t think the Jobcentre advisors are out to get you. They’re not. Change that perception. They have their limitations like we all do.
“And don’t expect them to do everything for you, because they can’t. Remember the UCAN has got experts to help you with a CV… we want you to have the best.”