WALKING into the Job Centre can be daunting, but every day hundreds go through the doors of Oxford's branch.

The unassuming building on the corner of George Street and Worcester Street is Oxfordshire's biggest job centre, dealing with more than 200 people a day.

Inside its four walls the staff help people find work and gain access to crucial funds.

But for many of its employees, dishing out advice on jobs is just a small part of the work they do in their day-to-day roles.

They listen to people’s stories, ‘become parents to 100 people’ and offer living necessities when somebody is at their lowest.

They ‘don’t just deal with employment’ and often become ‘the first point of call for somebody when life has turned to its worst’.

The Oxford Times:

The walls of the Job Centre building are adorned with art-work made by people who are on a course run by Aspire and the Job Centre

Read again: Waste-saving extravaganza next month

Centre manager Gavin Brown said: “We are a government business, but we are part of the community as well.

“At the end of the day we are just people. Sometimes this job is emotionally tough, but it is incredibly rewarding. There are charities but we are usually the first point of call when something is going wrong in people’s lives.”

Lauren Webb is one of the staff on the front line at the centre: her role is to work with young people, those aged 18 to 21, and get them back into full-time jobs.

She said: “I have got about 100 people that I see.

“Young people have to go to workshops which we put on – anything like interview skills or CV building workshops – things they don’t learn at school.

“The drive is lacking massively for young people.

“They think they don’t need more money. They’re getting about £250 a month so the motivation to get into employment isn’t there.

“Getting a job is easy, but it’s keeping them in work. There are loads of jobs at hotels and in retail but it’s not sustainable because they don’t enjoy it and they don’t want to stay.

“Some days I feel like I am a mum of 100 people, other days I feel like I am their friend. But finding work for somebody in their 40s is really different, I like working with the young ones.”

The Oxford Times:

Oxford Job Centre

Read more: FOI reveals that children messaged sexually on Instagram 128 times

To get some of them back on the work wagon, the team are running a new fair which will be hosted at the Tap Social brewery in Botley this November.

Ms Webb said: “There will be a TUI rep, Oxford United, a make-up artist – we will be there to help them approach and talk to the employers.

“It will hopefully motivate them to broaden their horizons.”

The Job Centre team also put on other schemes to help people get back into full-time employment.

Lauren Little has been a work coach at the centre for a year-and-a-half, working mainly with people who have health problems.

She said: “This is a big office, we see about 175 to 200 people a day.

“We don’t just do employment here – we do from birth to death: it’s every problem you have.

“For people who are struggling to get into work we run a course alongside Oxpens College. It’s geared at people with health conditions or ex-offenders – those who may be a little harder to help. The course gives them one-to-one support.

"We are work coaches but the course offers them change coaches."

On the course, the coaches can help build a CV with the claimant or cut out the barriers which may be stopping them getting into work – like early starts.

She added: “We don’t have time here because we have about 15 minutes per person.”

Another vital role of the centre is to help residents with the new Universal Credit (UC) system.

The Oxford Times:

The switch from the old benefits system into UC was first rolled out in 2013, and came under fire for leaving people with just pennies for weeks on end.

Officially UC replaces six weekly existing benefits – Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit – with a single monthly payment.

But Gavin Brown said ‘a lot of work’ had been done to make it a smoother transition.

He said: “There has been a lot of work done behind the scenes to stop the wait.

“In the beginning people were waiting weeks and weeks, but now we can offer them advanced payments.

“People don’t have to wait for five weeks anymore, they tend to wait a month for Universal Credit payments now and some can see instant payments made that day, if they have kids or need to pay for something.”

Claimants can apply for advance payments to avoid hardship while they wait.

Ms Little said: “I like delivering Universal Credit: it’s obviously not going to be for everybody, but I find it really easy to translate to the claimants. It puts it back into the claimant's hand.”

In extreme circumstances, repayable interest-free loans can be paid the same day, for people who have children or hardships.