UPDATE 27/2/13: Registering an account with Universal Jobmatch will become mandatory from the beginning of March 2013. There should still be no requirement to tick the box giving DWP access to your account. For the latest details and what this means for claimants keep an eye on: http://consent.me.uk/2013/02/26/mandatory/
UPDATE: For the latest news (as of 20/01/13) and confirmation from the PCS Union that Universal Jobmatch is not mandatory visit: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/universal-jobmatch-not-mandatory-pcs-confirms/
Confusion reigns as usual at the DWP as the bodged roll out of Universal Jobmatch begins tomorrow.
As recently revealed, it appears that some Jobcentres are attempting to mandate unemployed claimants by stealth to the new job-matching computer system. Other claimants report that their Jobcentre have barely heard of the new database which will give DWP snoops unprecedented control over how unemployed people look for work.
Once signed up to the new database, Jobcentre staff will be able to match claimants up to jobs and monitor all job seeking activity by spying on applications and covers letters. Claimants who refuse, or are unable send out huge amounts of spam applications to employers, may face benefits being stopped.
Of most concern is that anyone pretending to be an employer will now be able to use the new service to track down groups of claimants and compel them to come and be interviewed. Already the Jobcentre’s vacancy database is riddled with scams, sex work, or the kind of commission only sales jobs that are likely to end up featured on Rogue Traders The potential for abuse of the new system is terrifying.
It is almost quite possibly unlawful for claimants to be forced to surrender their rights under the Data Protection Act by using benefit sanctions to blackmail people into signing up to the new scheme.
Despite what bullying Jobcentre bosses may claim, the latest information from the DWP confirms that the scheme is not yet mandatory: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://consentrights.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/universal-jobmatch.pdf
Claimants are advised to print out the page at the above link and take it with them next time they attend the Jobcentre. At present DWP policy, according to the most recent documentation, is that claimants should not be mandated to sign up – so don’t! (be careful out there, see below for the information on Jobseeker Directions)
There are fears that the new system will be used to home police claimants when Universal Credit is introduced next year. Under the new benefits regime, claimants will be expected to spend 35 hours looking for work each week. The DWP, or even Work Programme contractors like A4e, could use the new system to force claimants to spend hours clicking through the site or pointlessly applying for unsuitable vacancies just to meet this 35 hour a week condition. Part time workers, sick or disabled claimants and single parents will face similar conditions.
A mass rejection of the scheme now will help put a spanner in the works of any future Orwellian snooping into how claimants look for work.
It is possible that there may be some attempt to bully claimants to sign up via a Jobseekers Direction. This is a formal order which means a claimant can be forced to take any reasonable steps dictated by Jobcentre advisors to find work or face a benefit sanction.
Should this happen then claimants could sign up but refuse to grant the DWP access to their online account. Claimants are also advised to set up anonymised email accounts with providers like yahoo and hotmail (or some far hipper and more secure alternative that hopefully some geek will recommend in the comments). Don’t tell the fuckers anything you don’t have to.
It can be difficult to challenge the Jobcentre with the ever present threat of being plunged into immediate poverty due to the sanctions regime. Everyday more local groups are coming together to resist the demolition of the welfare state. There are many facebook pages and groups where folk in the same boat may know of a group near you. Please feel free to post any links in the comments to local groups established to support claimants (I’ll try to get a list up in the next week of so).
For more information on what you don’t have to sign visit: http://www.donotsign.com/
Facebook groups supporting claimants:
Benefit Claimants Fightback: http://www.facebook.com/groups/116432071735566/
Boycott Workfare: http://www.facebook.com/boycottworkfare
Disabled People Against Cuts: http://www.facebook.com/groups/DPAC2011/
Black Triangle in Defence of Disabled Claimants: http://www.facebook.com/blacktriangle11
Join the National Week of Action Against Workfare: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1741
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid