By: Daniella Jade Lowe

From January 29th- February 23rd, 2018, I had the wonderful opportunity to be involved in the Movement 2 Work Placement at the Park Place Jobcentre in Leeds, through the Department of Works and Pensions. I originally found out about this placement at the Guiseley Jobcentre through my Work Coach last year.

In preparation for this placement, I met with the Health and Safety Team about a risk assessment on the 19th of January, which is protocol for all wheelchair users. I’m happy with everything. I got two evacuation buddies and a mentor. I get tea and lunch breaks on the placement. I was given a personal tour of the building. I was based on the ground floor. I did Job shadowing and Customer Service work. I got my own access fob. There were three refuge points in case of fire and two wheelchair accessible bathrooms. There was a lift as well, but I didn’t need to use it. The kitchen was also accessible.

My placement officially started on the 29th of January, which was Induction Day. I met my Work Placement Advisor who gave me a refresher tour of the Jobcentre. He also gave me my workbook. The staff are caring, friendly and knowledgeable about their role and the Jobcentre itself. I believe that this Work Experience will help to boost my CV and career in general. I can also use the knowledge and skills gained to apply for other jobs.

On Tuesday I job shadowed my supervisor Angela who helped customers find and apply for jobs. The main skill learned was time management. The main quality of a Jobcentre is Labour. They use Labour Market Systems and Labour Market Units to help customers. This experience can help me to improve my organisational skills.

On Wednesday I job shadowed my supervisor Steph who carried out Habitual Residence Tests in an AJCS diary using DCams. Habitual Residence Tests are oral, online tests, carried out in interview style, for refugees seeking benefits. DCams are like a claimant commitment. Appointments are booked through these. You can find all customer details on it based on National Insurance numbers. I learned that you need to be very organised and have a good memory. You should also have good communication skills, listening skills, body language and general interview etiquette. They tend to use abbreviations a lot, but abbreviations can help improve memory and time management. It also helps you to be organised.

On Thursday morning I job shadowed and observed a Habitual Residence Test. I saw Steph use the DCams again. I also did some photocopying. Thursday afternoon, my supervisor Paul showed me how the Universal Credit Department works. I learned to be observant. I also learned how to improve organisational skills and how to improve memory.

Friday morning I observed HRTs. Friday afternoon I joined a group session to do personal job searching. By doing this, I learned teamwork as I helped others in job searching. I was also more motivated to job search as I worked in a group. In the future I should try to complete tasks with other people to improve my time management and motivational skills. This can also improve communication skills.

During the latter part of my second week, I got to explore the Finance Department and Universal Credit Department. I also experienced my first bomb alarm. That’s when my Risk Assessment and Evacuation Plan came in handy. During the alarm everyone gathered in the middle of the room and we were escorted out of the building with the Wardens and Evacuation buddies. We all stood outside, across the street from the Jobcentre, waiting for the signal that it was safe to go back inside. Once it was over, we went back inside and continued working.

In reference to my opinion on disability awareness, wheelchair accessibility and equality, I feel that the staff did an excellent job. I am very happy with the way everything panned out. My only criticism or suggestion is that the kitchen door should be automatic because it is difficult if a wheelchair user has to hold a hot drink or food, push their wheelchair and hold the door open simultaneously. I didn’t venture upstairs because there is no evacuation chair in case of a fire or bomb which would leave me stranded.

Other than that, I enjoyed my time at Park Place Jobcentre. I wasn’t allowed to start the placement until the risk assessment was carried out, which means that they take their duty of care very seriously. They made reasonable adjustments for me. I am thankful. The culture of the clientèle was pleasant and friendly. The workers were predominantly women. There were some similarities to my career of choice. Interviewing is a big part of what Jobcentres do to help people find employment and claim benefits. Interviewing is also a big part of Journalism which is part of my career goals. Although Customer service at the Jobcentre isn’t what I’d do as a career, it was good to explore this profession. I would like to officially thank the Park Place Leeds Jobcentre Plus and the Department of Works and Pensions for making the necessary adjustments for me to do this placement.

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About Daniella-Jade Lowe

Hello, My name is Daniella Jade Lowe. I am a PURSUN researcher and I am working on marketing myself as an Accessibility Consultant. Journalism and Politics are my passion. I have a BA degree in History and Politics. What type of disability do you have? At birth, I was diagnosed with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus which are neurological conditions. As a result, I use a wheelchair for mobility. What is disability to you? The only disability is a bad attitude. I have a disability. It doesn’t completely define me; it just enhances me in a way which differentiates and strengthens me. My disability should be viewed as an ability: to see the world in a different way. I don’t really like the term because sometimes it indirectly implies someone is dysfunctional or helpless. The most important thing is to never make assumptions. Someone with a disability can be very, physically, fit and strong, highly intelligent and articulate. What has been your experience from the time you remember till now? - positive and negative experiences. My life as a wheelchair user has been generally okay. Wheelchair Accessibility is frustrating. I was teased a little in school. Other than that, life is great. How do you cope with: -daily activities - your disability, do you have times when you are down - people's reactions towards you. I have carers, a Social worker, District Nurses, a GP, and extended family in this country. I am also in contact with a local disability charity in Yorkshire. I also have a friendly landlord. How do you keep yourself motivated? I must stay organised and practice good time management. I also prioritise my plans. What is your word or advice - to those with disabilities? - to the society Don’t let people put you in a box. You have a voice, use it. 10. Tell us about your platforms if you have any- Blog: The View from Where I Sit Facebook: Daniella Jade Lowe Instagram: @daniellajadelowe/@theviewfromwheresitblog Thank you!