The service - housed at the former New Look store in Priory Meadow Shopping Centre - helps people move from benefits into work, and helps employers advertise jobs. However, it has received a thumbs-down from many Hastings residents, who said they would have preferred to have seen a new shop there. They claim the new Jobcentre - opposite Primark and on the main route from the train station to the town centre - will be bad for tourism and a further blow to the high street.
The new Jobcentre has 30 work coaches. Some joined the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - which runs Jobcentre Plus - as part of a recent recruitment drive to hire 13,500 new work coaches across the country. Each coach will help local people looking for work in the Hastings, Rye and Rother areas with one-on-one tailored support to find a job.
Carra, one of the new recruits in Hastings, said: “I get to meet lots of different people and help them reach their full potential. I enjoy working with a diverse community and feeling like I am making a real difference to their lives and futures.”
Hastings Priory Meadow Jobcentre Plus is one of the new temporary sites announced by the DWP last year, building on the existing 639 Jobcentres across the UK.
Greg Walker, DWP’s project leader overseeing the new site, said because it is in the heart of Hastings town centre, it will make it easier for people in the town and surrounding rural areas who find getting to the existing Jobcentre more difficult. “This is a wonderful opportunity to engage and support our customers and be a pivotal part of the local community, making services easier to access and providing help where and when it’s needed most. Being based in the town centre will mean less traveling for many and will strengthen our links with local employers and other providers,” he added.
Last month, when the Hastings Observer reported the Jobcentre was about to open, dozens of readers on the Observer’s Facebook page gave it a thumbs-down. Mandy Bevan wrote: “How boring. A shopping centre isn’t the place for this. SHOPPING centre. Clue is in the name.” Yasmin Marie O’Farrell added: “What a waste of a shop space. It’s going to make the town centre even more unappealing.” Caz Jayne said: “Hastings needs more shops - what a silly place to put it. Won’t look good for tourists right in the town centre.”
However, Peter Singer said: “Everyone moaning because it’s not going to be a shop. Look at the empty shops in the town - Debenhams, Peacocks, New Look, Clarks, Carphone Warehouse - to name a few. We have loads of charity shops, and even a furniture warehouse which is a charity. The high street is dying - it has been for years. Internet sales and out-of-town retail parks have killed what we know as the town centre shopping. I guess it is a sign of the times, and it will only get worse with rents, and utility bills going up. The high street shops cannot compete with internet prices, and supermarket prices.”