Having only started at the Centre a few weeks ago I jumped at the opportunity to go on my first ‘visit’ to a local place. On this occasion it was a tour of the Jobcentre in Wigan. I had never previously visited a Jobcentre; therefore I was looking forward to learning the basics about their core operational business but also about the way in which they work from a partnership perspective.
Luckily I picked a great morning to visit as they were hosting an employment, information and guidance fair for Wigan’s residents, to support claimants with their journey back into the workplace and to break down any perceived barriers that might prevent them from doing so.
The first thing that struck me was the presence of a general buzz within the building. The office floor was jam packed with organisations to educate and support claimants about the services they provide, including; employers, drug and alcohol teams, community police, healthy eating advice, separation advice and financial support.
As part of the tour I also had the opportunity to learn more about how Universal Credit works in Wigan. Again, I was in a very fortunate position to be speaking to Wigan Jobcentre as they were one of the pathfinders for Universal Credit. The staff spoke very positively of the changes and reassured me that ‘it’s in and running well’.
During the afternoon I visited the local authority’s ‘Life Centre’ which is just a stone’s throw from the Jobcentre. The centre is a multi-purpose building offering a range of public services under one roof. The idea is that a member of the public can ‘drop in’ 6 days a week to gain information, support or advice on a particular service, including; benefits advice and support, local welfare support, Universal Credit, debt advice, planning advice and licensing etc.
The reason for visiting could be as simple as paying a bill, reporting a problem or perusing the shelves in the library, but by having all of the services under one roof, the idea is to introduce a holistic approach to supporting the public.
To reinforce this and to bridge the gap between the two organisations, the Jobcentre seconded a member of staff to work within the Life Centre just over a year ago. The idea is for them to be able to deliver a reinforced, person centred approach to tackling worklessness. They support individuals using the skills and knowledge that they have acquired as part of working for the Job Centre but also by utilising the other services that are available within the Life Centre itself.
The Life Centre is a relatively new venture having opened its doors in 2011 but it’s safe to say that that this approach to tackling worklessness and providing support both independently and alongside the Jobcentre is invaluable.
If I could sum up my day in Wigan in one word it would be; support. All staff members spoke of ‘supporting’ people; they shared a common goal and achieved it by working as a team and sharing information in partnership with each other and the service user.
Thank you to Wigan for providing a warm and thought provoking introduction to the world of information sharing, I look forward to visiting again soon.
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