In a major blow for Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reforms, The Guardian are reporting that government job-seeking website Universal Jobmatch is to be scrapped.
Universal Jobmatch was launched at huge cost towards the end of 2012 as a means of spying on unemployed people to ensure they are carrying out sufficient jobseeking activity. Changes to conditions for receiving benefits mean that in some cases unemployed claimants are expected to spend 35 hours a week looking for work. When Universal Credit is finally launched (stop laughing), millions more people, - including part time or self-employed workers, lone parents and disabled people – will also be expected to endlessly look for ‘more or better paid work’.
With Jobcentres already desperately over-stretched due to other reforms to social security, Universal Jobmatch was intended to be a ‘digital by default’ way of policing this new regime on the cheap. Iain Duncan Smith had intended the website to be a form of virtual workhouse, with claimants endlessly clicking away or applying for even unsuitable jobs through the site under the threat of benefits being stopped.
In truth Universal Jobmatch was anything but cheap, as private contractors Monster spent millions creating a website that fast became a laughing stock. Alongside this huge cost, estimated to be as high as £20 million, thousands of ‘Internet Access Devices’ were installed in Jobcentres for claimants who did not have a home computer. All this money now appears to have been squandered as yet another of Iain Duncan Smith’s crazy schemes collapses in an embarrassing shambles.
With no adequate checking procedures to see whether employers using the site are genuine, Universal Jobmatch has quickly filled up with scams, spoof vacancies and spam. A recent Channel 4 investigation has found that thousands of jobs on the website are bogus, with at least 11,000 vacancies generated by just one person being paid to harvest CVs for recruitment agencies. Almost anyone who has ever used the internet could have warned the DWP about this. Meanwhile technology is racing ahead, and Universal Automation – an automated app which does your jobsearch for you – has made a mockery of Iain Duncan Smith’s plans.
Bungling DWP officials even failed to check whether their plans to remotely spy on benefit claimants were legal. It turns out that in many cases they weren’t and there is currently no requirement for claimants to tick the box giving Jobcentres access to individual accounts. EU internet laws on cookies also mean that no-one can be forced to use the website anywhere but Jobcentres, whilst claimants can also untick the box which allows DWP staff to send them emails.
Whilst Universal Jobmatch may creak on until 2016 when the contract with Monster ends, it is clears that Iain Duncan Smith’s plans are in tatters. The impact of this on Universal Credit is huge. There is simply no way that the Jobcentre can monitor the job-seeking activity of millions more people at current staffing levels. The demise of Universal Jobmatch is the first nail in the coffin of Universal Credit, and it won’t be the last. If Iain Duncan Smith can’t even run a fucking website then what hope does he have of implementing the vastly complex IT system required for his back of the envelope reforms to the benefits system?
At presents claimants can still be mandated to register with Universal Jobmatch, but do not have to tick the box giving the Jobcentre access to accounts. For the most up to date info on your rights visit: http://refuted.org.uk/2013/10/13/jobmatch/
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