Anne Mill & Ayr’s Jobcentre

Experiencing unemployment or considering a change of career can be a daunting task for anyone at any stage of life. Anne Mill, a Disability Employment Adviser, knows how challenging this can be.

Over the past 30 years, she has been on a mission to change the perception and experience of the jobcentre. She is incredibly passionate about her work with a striking enthusiasm and commitment to do things differently.

One size doesn't fit all

Anne says, ‘Loneliness and social isolation are apparent wherever you go. Many people don’t have the opportunity to connect and people can find it difficult to engage with others. The assumption is that loneliness only affects the elderly, but it’s an issue for young people too.’

 

Recent research from Kings College London explored the impact of loneliness on younger people and found that people experiencing loneliness as young adults are more likely to experience mental health problems and be out of work than their peers.

 

Anne reflects on the challenges of coming to the jobcentre, ‘For anyone coming into this environment for the first time can be a daunting experience. Many people find it very difficult to come through the door.’

 

Knowing that coming into an unfamiliar setting can be intimidating, Anne wants to reduce barriers that prevent people from engaging with services available to them. This often means connecting with people in places where they are most comfortable. Whether that is meeting people in their place of work, community halls, churches, learning centres or at the allotment, Anne believes that taking time to build relationships and developing genuine empathy is key.

Loneliness and social isolation are apparent wherever you go. Many people don’t have the opportunity to connect and people can find it difficult to engage with others. The assumption is that loneliness only affects the elderly, but it’s an issue for young people too.

Making the Job Centre a welcoming space

An important part of Anne's approach has been making sure services are welcoming and visible in the community.  She says, ‘Sometimes that means drop-in workshops over lunchtimes, sometimes that means getting your jeans and wellies on sowing beetroot - it’s good to connect with people in a different setting. You must be prepared to support people in ways that are appropriate for them and their life.’

 

In addition to her out-reach activity, Anne wants to continue to make their office on John Street a welcoming place for everyone and is keen to create a work culture in which people feel comfortable to talk about their mental health issues and have the confidence to support others. She feels it's important to encourage an environment where people take the time to check in with colleagues and clients alike. As Anne points out, ‘We all have mental health whether you’re on one side of the desk or another. Sometimes just listening can make a world of difference.’

 

‘We took part in a ‘Time to Talk’ day at work. I wanted to encourage my colleagues to think differently about what we can all do to help one another. Props work great at sessions like this. I brought in a tray full of fruit and vegetables which I showed to the group. I said, we know that five pieces of fruit and veg support our physical health but what about our mental health? This started a discussion around five things we can do to help others and improve our wellbeing. I want people to know that every day is a time to talk and ask people how they are. Get in tune with those around you.’

There are lots of positive things happening quietly in the background. We’re working hard to support everyone to stay in work. Gone are the days where mental health problems or life changing illness would mean a life out of work. We’re here to support people in the workplace, in further education or to retrain for a new career. Each and every person has skills and talents that they can bring to the workplace.

Everyone can make the first step with the right support

‘People might be very surprised to hear what’s going on in the jobcentre. There are lots of positive things happening quietly in the background. We are working towards becoming autism friendly, improving our mental health awareness and creating disability confident spaces as well as promoting the benefits of diversity in the workspace.

 

‘We’re working hard to support everyone to stay in work. Gone are the days where mental health problems or life changing illness would mean a life out of work. We’re here to support people in the workplace, in further education or to retrain for a new career. Each and every person has skills and talents that they can bring to the workplace.’

 

Employment can provide an important opportunity for friendship and connection but the times when we find ourselves out of work can be Isolating. Anne's compassion, understanding and unfailing enthusiasm helps everyone to feel welcome, listened to and ready to make the first step back to employment.