Tag Archives: DWP

The Truth Behind Philip Hensher’s Bike Riding Slur

hensher-twitter2Philip Hensher’s delusions about benefit claimants with mental health conditions have further unraveled as the source of his recent outburst in The Independent has been revealed.

It seems that Hensher was referring to this document (PDF) when he said:

“A campaigning group, After Atos, has the slogan Not One Shall Be Lost. The trouble is, reading its website, that some clearly deserve to be lost to the benefits system. Beside some genuinely sad cases, we find this testimony: “I travelled on my mountain bike [to the interview] as I can’t stand being on a bus for more than 15 minutes. I get off before I panic.” Now, I don’t say they should definitely go back to work. I don’t know the full facts. But is it not reasonable to say that someone who can cycle the equivalent of a bus journey of more than 15 minutes should have their fitness to work examined?”

The website he refers to is the result of  a wide ranging survey of people’s experiences of the Work Capability Assessment.  The full quote, which Hensher uses to insinuate that riding a bike might be evidence of benefit fraud, is as follows:

“I travelled on my mountain bike as I can’t stand being on a bus for more than  15 minutes. I get off before I panic. Last time I tried was 2 years ago and I got off after about 2 miles with 5 still to go and walked the rest of it.”

Hensher will be pleased to know that this individual, who suffers from such acute anxiety they are unable to travel on public transport, was found fit for work.

What Hensher doesn’t know is that the same person also described their experiences after losing sickness benefits.  After Atos have released their response to this part of the survey:

“Finances: ended up over £600 overdrawn, thankfully HSBC are an even better bank than I had realised and helped me work out a repayment solution – only ~£40 left to go atm. Council have taken me to court once already over unpaid rent due to housing benefit being stopped. Mental Health: I spent a lot of time working out how I could kill myself while making it seem an accident so as to upset friends/relatives as little as possible. I also left the house even less than before. Motivation to do anything, which was low to begin with, became almost zero Physical Health: I lost a lot of weight because I didn’t have either the quantity or the quality of food necessary. Social Life: What social life? Work Life: n/a”

Philip Hensher appears to have left twitter after he was roundly condemned for his backward views on mental health conditions.   Unable to answer the points raised, he chose to swear at people and then run away.  If only life were so simple for the thousands of people currently being impoverished by Atos and abused by people like Hensher in the national press on a daily basis.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Empty Threats and Tantrums Are All Iain Duncan Smith Has Left In Universal Jobmatch Fiasco

IDSIain Duncan Smith has resorted to increasingly bizarre and empty threats in an effort to defend the shambolic Universal Jobmatch website.

The new job seeking website, which has been plagued by spam, scam and spoof jobs since its launch last month, has the facility for Jobcentre staff to remotely monitor how claimants are using the site.  Whilst the DWP is to force everyone on Job Seekers Allowance to register with the site in the New Year, they cannot legally compel claimants to tick the box giving advisors the right to snoop on their activity.

This obvious oversight in the construction of the new regime has led to yet more tantrums from Iain Duncan Smith.  Speaking to The Metro shortly before Christmas IDS appeared to suggest that claimants who do not allow Jobcentre staff to snoop on their online job seeking activity could face being hauled into Jobcentres on a daily basis.

When Universal Credit is introduced next year 5 million people will be expected to constantly look for ‘more or better paid’ work as a condition of keeping in-work benefits.  Those who are judged not trying hard enough to find jobs may have benefits sanctioned, or be forced into workfare.  The enforcement of this job seeking activity is to be ‘digital by default’ – suggesting that in the near future part time workers, sick or disabled claimants and self-employed people forced out of business due to Universal Credit, will all be required to sign up to Universal Jobmatch.

Even if just one in five of those claimants refuse to allow the Jobcentre access to their account, this this would mean around a million people hauled into Jobcentres every day.  Currently Jobcentres are running at full capacity, seeing around one and a half million people, mostly once a fortnight.  Far from being digital by default, if Iain Duncan Smith’s threats are implemented then the launch of Universal Credit will need to recruit tens of thousands of new public sector workers.

Since this isn’t on the cards anytime soon Iain Duncan Smith’s words should be greeted with the mocking contempt they deserve.  There is no legal requirement to tick the box granting the Jobcentre the right to snoop on your account and no way that the DWP can force you to accept cookies on a home computer.

Of perhaps most concern is Iain Duncan Smith’s attempts to threaten claimants with harassment should they exercise their basic legal rights.  This is a clear attempt to undermine the principle of equality under the law.  If the Secretary of State gets his way then one law for the rich and another for the poor will be firmly enshrined in DWP policy.

One person seems to have spotted that the DWP may be monitoring more than just activity on Universal Jobmatch but also attempting to monitor use of other websites.  Keep an eye on the following Freedom of Information request: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/information_returned_from_cookie/new

The Information Commissioner’s Office, who monitor data protection laws, provide guidance on some of the relevant laws surrounding Universal Jobmatch’s use of cookies, the small computer programmes that allow tracking of users activity on the site. 

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Could Universal Jobmatch Mean Government Enforced Sex Work?

Universal-jobmatch-sexworkThe new job matching service for unemployed people, Universal Jobmatch,  could see claimant’s forced into the sex industry or face having benefits stopped.

Already the bug-ridden website has featured on Channel 4 news after job vacancies appeared which were little more than identity fraud scams.  Hundreds of thousands of unemployed claimants are currently being asked to sign up to the new website which aims to make all Jobcentre monitoring of jobseeking activity ‘digital by default’.

Many of the jobs on the website are little more than flaky self-employed sales opportunities, whilst others are clearly spoofs, such as the two ads for ‘gay princesses’ which appeared last weekend.

In a new low for the Government backed website, an advert spotted by an eagle-eyed tweeter over the weekend calls for females presenters for “home internet work for internet babe chat.”

The ad was posted by loaded.tv, a new soft porn and ‘lads’ online television channel recently launched by Loaded magazine.  Whilst the wording of the advert is vague, it seems likely this work is for webcam models – a booming sector of the porn industry.   Lucky jobseekers may even be offered a real presenting job on what will no doubt be TV classics such as Looser Women, My Bare Lady and Drunk Skunk where barely dressed “Loaded girls get drunk as skunks and review the latest music vids”.

Advertising this kind of work through a Government website is a long way from DWP policy which states employers must not place any:   “jobs for sexual services or seeking employees for jobs of a sexual nature. Any jobs placed within the adult entertainment industry must only be for the purposes of a) selling, manufacturing and distributing of adult entertainment products b) Ancillary staff e.g. cleaners and bar staff and c) jobs must display the age requirement of 18 or over. No other adult entertainment jobs will be accepted.”

There is no requirement on the internet babe chat vacancy that applicants are over 18.  Whilst Universal Jobmatch is aimed at those over 18 there is nothing to stop younger people looking at the site, and applying for jobs.  Appallingly children, in all innocence, could find themselves tempted to apply for these roles.  After all, this is a government website, what could go wrong?

There has long been controversy about sex work and jobs in the adult industry being advertised through jobcentres and in 2010 lying bastard Chris Grayling claimed the practice had been banned.

In fact the virtually non-existent vetting procedures for employers wishing to place vacancies on Universal Jobmatch mean anyone old pervert could pretend to be an employer and ask for all women in the local area, say between the ages of 18 and 25, to visit them for an interview.

The most shocking aspect of all is that Jobcentre staff may decide to force those women to attend the interview or stop benefits.  The website allows Jobcentre staff to ‘recommend’ vacancies to claimants and then check whether they have applied.  Claimant’s who refuse to apply for the vacancies selected for them could have benefits stopped.

Jobcentre staff are under increasing pressure to harass unemployed claimants and force them to apply for as many jobs as possible.  It is entirely possible that a vaguely worded advert for ‘internet babe chat’ presenters is not fully understood as being a form of sex work by some Jobcentre advisors.  It is equally possible that a vulnerable young claimant could feel they have no choice but to apply for the vacancy and if successful take up the position.  If they refuse they could face having benefits stopped, potentially for up to three years.  Not every claimant has the confidence to stand up and fight ever more punishing DWP decisions.

So in answer to the lurid headline above, yes, Universal Jobmatch could mean government enforced sex work, without even the government being aware of it.

The DWP have brushed off claims that unemployed people could be forced to send personal information to identity fraudsters by insisting the vetting procedures for vacancies are adequate.  In a statement to Channel 4 they attempt to completely wash their hands of any responsibility for misuse of the website claiming “Sadly, there will always be a small number of cases where people seek to get around these checks.”

Yet the website was built at great cost by the recruitment firm Monster Jobs – a company which has their own similar website for jobseekers which isn’t riddled with sex work and identity scams.

So determined are the DWP to punish people for being unemployed they appear to think claimants now have no rights whatsoever and deserve such a shoddy and exploitative service.  It will not just be unemployed people subject to digital by default snooping, bullying and scamming should they be forced to sign up to Universal Jobmatch.  When Universal Credit is introduced next year, millions of disabled people, single parents, part time workers and self employed workers will also be forced to undertake endless ‘job seeking activity’ or face benefits being stopped.

Monitoring this vast expansion of DWP snooping into claimant’s lives was always likely to be expensive.   It appears that Iain Duncan Smith has found a way to do it on the cheap – and if a few people get scammed, or forced into the sex industry, well it appears to serve them right for claiming any form of benefit.

The latest information from the PCS, the union which represents Jobcentre staff, is that it is not mandatory to sign up to Universal Jobmatch.  Despite this anecdotal evidence suggests that many claimant’s are being threatened with benefit sanctions if they refuse.  Printing out the statement from the PCS and taking it to the Jobcentre may be one way which claimants can make a case that they do not wish to sign up to the website, and that according to the DWP’s own documents, they don’t have to.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Universal Jobmatch: A Scammers Paradise

job-scam3UPDATE 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/

The Government’s new job vacancies website, Universal Jobmatch, is riddled with outright scams, data harvesting operations, spoof job vacancies and dodgy business opportunities.  The recently launched website is the latest crazy scheme from Iain Duncan Smith to snoop on the ‘job seeking activity’ of benefit claimants.

The bug ridden site, which many claimants say barely works, is now leading to fears unemployed people may be forced to hand over personal information to fraudsters or face benefit sanctions.

An advert appeared last week for the Montcalm Hotel offering a staggering £3-5000 a month for bar work and catering staff.  All candidates had to do is send a full CV, with contact details and a passport sized photograph, to an email address which appeared to emanate from Thailand.

This advert, which was an obvious identity fraud scam, has now been taken down.  But this was only after several people had identified it on twitter and made the real Montcalm Hotel (which does exist) aware of the fake job advert.  It seems to have easily passed through the shabby vetting procedures the DWP requires from employers wishing to advertise jobs on the system

An obvious scam such as this appearing on a Government website is embarrassing enough, but of far more concern is that unemployed claimants can now be forced to apply for any job on the site or face losing benefits.  This is not scare-mongering.  The DWP could force you to hand over your personal details to an obvious fraudster.  In fact this could have already happened.

The lax security procedures were highlighted when the site launched and an advert with the reference number 007 called for an Elimination Specialist at MI6.  This weekend two adverts have appeared asking for a ‘gay princess’ with a company called spamco suggesting hackers have already found their way through the verification system.

Even the jobs which aren’t outright scams or spoofs are dubious at best.  Several adverts ask for ‘distributors’ for a company called Focus Group Distribution.  Like many of the jobs on the Universal Jobmatch site, this position is commission only.  Potential candidates are asked to visit a website to apply where they are presented with a form asking for a name, address and telephone number.  The company claim to be a long established British PLC.  Yet according to Companies House, Focus Group Distribution don’t exist.  The website is registered to a single individual at a home address.

Several more vacancies are available with the optimistically named Freedom Enterprises.  Once again this leads to a website which demands full personal details before before providing any information on the company.  According to who.is, this website is registered to a non-trading individual.

Unlike the Montcalm Hotel scam these commission only jobs advertised on dubious websites may be perfectly genuine.  Or they may be pyramid schemes, spammers or the kind of ‘business opportunity’ that demands huge cash payments up front. The DWP don’t know.  Or even seem to care.  So desperate are they to punish and harass anyone who might find themselves unemployed, that they no longer seem interested if by their actions they further destroy people’s lives.

An increasing number of people forced off sickness benefits and into endless job seeking activity have learning disabilities or mental health conditions.  Most are desperate and living in dire poverty.  These are exactly the people scammers like to target to strip away any last remaining cash they may have.

And the DWP will help them along the way by demanding that huge numbers of unemployed people are  forced to hand out personal information to any passing ID fraudster.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Questions That the Work Programme Charities Urgently Need to Answer

Ever since Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Work Programme was rolled out in 2011, the charitable sub-contractors involved have attempted to dodge and wriggle their way out questions relating to the nastier elements of the scheme.

When the workfare row blew up at the beginning of the year, the members of Disability Works (DWUK), a consortium of disability charities formed to maximise income from the Work Programme, vehemently denied that they had anything to do with sanctioning disabled people’s benefits.  A statement on their website reads: “DWUK members are not directly involved in delivering sanctions – this action is taken by DWP via Job Centre Plus.”

This is a deliberate attempt to diminish their role in delivering punishing benefit sanctions.  Their statement also admits:  “If an individual does not attend a referral or other activity, as required, DWUK would be obliged to report that non-compliance to the Work Programme prime provider.”

This is known in DWP jargon as reporting a Compliance Breach.  It is true that the DWP then make the final decision about whether to sanction a claimants benefit or not – but for the charities to claim they have nothing to do with the process is a bit like saying the police have nothing to do with putting people in prison.  It’s clearly bullshit and the charities concerned should stop treating their users and the people who fund them as if we are stupid.

DWUK’s statement even gives an impression that they agree with sanctioning disabled people’s benefits in some cases.   Whilst they claim that they will make the DWP aware if they believe an individual is vulnerable, they say this information will mean simply that “DWP decision makers can then be provided with all the relevant facts to help them make the right decision.”

At a recent meeting discussing fighting welfare reform a senior figure from one of the DWUK charities seemed to agree with this, claiming that they always challenged sanctions they thought were ‘unreasonable’.  Clearly DWUK think it is sometime reasonable to force a disabled benefit claimant into absolute poverty and possible homelessness because they missed an appointment or failed to start a training course.

Yesterday the DWP quietly announced that from the 3rd December this year –  International Disabled People’s Day – claimants of sickness and disability benefits, who have been judged by their own doctors as unable to work, can now be sent on workfare.

Once again the big charities involved in the Work Programme started spinning away any responsibility for their role in this brutal new regime.  Mental health charity MIND released a statement saying“Mind does not believe that people who have been found unfit for work should be forced to undertake mandatory unpaid work placements.”

It’s worth pointing out that they only say they disagree with this practice, but don’t say that they will not be involved in carrying it out.

Substance misuse charity Addaction (@addactionuk) responded to the post yesterday on this blog with a flustered refutation complaining that they aren’t just in the Work Programme for the money.  On further questioning they went much further than MIND, stating categorically that they have not raised any Work Programme compliance breaches (although stopping short of saying they would refuse to – as this would doubtless place them in breach of contract).

They also state that they are not involved in referring unemployed claimants into any form of workfare, will not be involved in referring sickness and disability claimants into workfare and would refuse to monitor workfare attendance and compliance if the prime contractors (their poverty pimp bosses like A4e and G4S) sent claimants on mandatory workfare.

Which is fine.  Well done Addaction, except that it is only by good luck that they haven’t yet had to refer a compliance doubt and that by taking part in the Work Programme they give charitable cover to what is turning out to be the most brutal and inept welfare-to-work scheme ever devised.

Addaction also claim they didn’t sign the gagging order which many other Work Programme sub-contractors have claimed forbids them from even criticising the Work Programme.

Finally Salvation Army have re-iterated their workfare denial, despite several appeals on their website for companies and organisations who can offer work placements.  It is impossible to know just how ‘voluntary’ these work placements are in practice, but this blogpost gives an idea of what claimants sent to the Salvation Army on the Work Programme can expect:  http://quacking-plums.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/i-fucking-hate-work-programme.html

Homelessness charities this week released a report slamming the Work Programme and its impact on homeless people.  One of the first charities to pull out of the Work Programme was the Single Homeless Project (SHP), claiming the sanctions regime could force vulnerable people to have to “beg and steal to survive”.  St Mungos, one of the UK’s largest homelessness charities, have also pulled out of the scheme.  Their reason was far more pragmatic.  They weren’t making any money.

Oxfam have refused to be involved with the Work Programme, workfare and benefit sanctions – claiming it would be inappropriate for an anti-poverty organisation.

There is obviously disagreement within the third sector about the ethics of any charity involvement in this scheme and the devastation that benefit sanctions can bring to people’s lives.

Charities have a duty to be transparent.  Perhaps they are all like Addaction, tacitly playing along whilst not referring people for sanctions or sending claimants on workfare.  If so this makes Iain Duncan Smith look like the joke he is – talking tough for the television whilst behind the scenes Work Programme charitable contractors are subverting his every move.

The only way we can finally know the truth about the involvement of MIND (@MindCharity), Mencap (@mencap_charity), Scope (@scope), RNIB (@RNIB), Leonard Chesire Foundation (@LCDisability) and all the other Work Programme sub-contractors in workfare and benefit sanctions is if they will answer the following questions.

  1. How many and what has been the nature of any Compliance Breaches (your organisation) has raised with the Prime Contractors or the DWP?
  2. How many people have had benefits sanctioned as a result of Compliance Breaches raised by (your organisation)?
  3. Would (your organisation) refuse to raise Compliance Doubts in defiance of their contractual agreement with the DWP and Prime Contractors as Work Programme sub-contractors?
  4. Does (your organisation) have a strategy in place to support Work Programme participants who have had benefits sanctioned due to compliance breaches and if so what is it?
  5. Is (your organisation) involved in mandating JSA* claimants to ‘work experience’ or ‘voluntary work’?
  6. Will (your organisation) be involved in mandating ESA WRAG** claimants to ‘work experience’ or ‘voluntary work’?
  7. If the Prime Contractors choose to mandate Work Programme participants with (your organisation) to some form of unpaid work will (your organisation) refuse to monitor these placements and report Compliance Breaches.
  8. Did (your organisation) agree as part of their Work Programme sub-contract that they will not criticise the Work Programme, meaning that (your organisation) cannot campaign against forced unpaid work being implemented for thiose on unemployment, sickness or disability benefits?
  9. Will (your organisation) be actively campaigning against forced unpaid work for sick and disabled claimants in the ESA WRAG group?

Charitable organisations are now at the heart of all mandatory work placements which must be able to demonstrate ‘community benefit’.  Along with workfare for sick and disabled claimants, unlimited workfare is being planned for those leaving the Work Programme and entering the Community Action Programme.  A fierce and co-ordinated response from the larger charities could kills this form of workfare stone dead.

The question is whose  side are they on?  Will they stand with disabled, unemployed or unwell people who are already struggling desperately due to the vicious welfare cuts?  Or will they stand on the side of Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP?

* JSA means the unemployment benefit Jobseekers Allowance
**ESA WRAG means  claimants of the sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance who have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group due to being assessed as being able to work at some point in the future.

Join in with the Week of Action Against Workfare Charities beginning on December 8th.  Actions already announced in Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Brighton and Liverpool:  http://antiworkfare.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/week-of-action-against-workfare_29.html

Universal Jobmatch: The IT Shambles at the DWP

Reports are suggesting that thousands of unemployed people may be forced to sign up to Universal Jobmatch this week despite the site being so poorly constructed that registration is near impossible at times.

Several Jobcentres are believed to have threatened people with a ‘Jobseekers Direction’ unless they register with the new government job search website and allow DWP snoops access to their account.  This unprecedented and chilling intrusion means that anyone claiming benefits could now be forced to sign away their rights under the Data Protection Act or face poverty and possible homelessness due to having benefits sanctioned.

It will not just be unemployed people who face being stripped of their privacy rights should this continue.  When Universal Credit is launched next year millions of people, whether single parents,or those who are sick, disabled or working part time, will be expected to constantly prove they are seeking ‘more or better paid work’ to satisfy benefit conditions.  With DWP staff already over-stretched it seems certain that Universal Jobmatch will be the mechanism used to police and monitor claimant’s jobsearch.

Universal Jobmatch is a job matching website where employers can browse the CVs of claimants and use the DWP to threaten people into applying for jobs.  Jobcentre staff can also select job vacancies which claimants must then apply for or face losing benefits.

Already many employers have refused to use the service due to concerns about being overwhelmed by mass spam job applications.  Many of the jobs on offer are part time, self-employed or appear to be recruitment agencies simply attempting to hoover up personal details of claimants for their databases.  Barely any checks are made to see if an employer is genuine leading to fears that the site could be exploited by everyone from illegal gang masters to abusive ex-partners.  Over the weekend the vacancy pictured above appeared for an ‘elimination specialist’  with MI6 quoting a reference number of 007.

Despite this some Jobcentres are attempting to sign people up by force in direct contravention of DWP guidelines insisting the scheme is not (yet) mandatory.  Other claimants have reported that their Jobcentre barely seem to have heard of the scheme.  Perhaps most importantly, the website simply doesn’t work.  The site constantly times out with accessing job vacancies and registration just not possible at times.  Claimants mandated to sign up to the site could find themselves stripped of benefits merely because the shabby Universal Jobmatch website is virtually unusable.

Claimants may be expected to do one of two things.  Firstly they could be ordered to register with Universal Jobmatch and secondly to tick the box which allows Jobcentre staff to access their accounts.  Unless forced to under threat of sanctions the best advice is to do neither.  There is no need to register with the website to view and apply for most of the vacancies.

The DWP are attempting to launch a crude surveillance system of jobseeking activity on the cheap.  If Universal Jobmatch fails then upcoming plans to force part time workers into endless jobsearch, or compel unemployed people to spend 35 hours a week looking for non-existent jobs, are likely to prove unworkable.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Universal Jobmatch – Do Not Sign!

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

Universal Jobmatch – The Brutal Farce at the DWP Continues

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/universaljobmatch/

The DWP’s obsession with forcing unemployed people into endless, and often pointless, work related activity, is set to reach new heights when Universal Jobmatch is launched next week.

According to the DWP the service is a: “new, free, online job posting and matching service for companies and jobseekers.”  Run by private company  Monster Jobs, the site will replace the previous online job search facilities provided by the Jobcentre.

Despite earlier denials from the DWP that unemployed claimants will be not forced to sign up to the new site, it now appears as if registering will be mandatory (as the above picture reveals).  Claimants will be expected to sign away their rights under the Data Protection Act and hand a vast amount of personal detail over to the DWP, who can them pass the information onto anyone they choose.  The legality of this is unsure, as is how and when sanctions might be applied – keep an eye on the internet for new developments.

Jobcentre advisors will have full access to personal accounts, meaning they can check on all activity, snoop on job applications, cover letters and CVs as well as ‘suggest’ job vacancies.  Failure to act on the DWP’s suggestions will lead to benefits being sanctioned.

When Universal Credit is eventually introduced, unemployed people will be expected to spend 35 hours a week on ‘work related activity’ (otherwise known as looking for a job).  Millions more people who are self-employed or in part time work, including even single parents,  will be expected to constantly look for more or better paid work as a condition of in work benefit entitlement.  Sick and disabled claimants in the Work Related Activity Group will also be expected to look for work or face benefits being stopped.

If the practice of mandatory sign up to the service continues, then millions of people could be forced to sign away data protection rights and allow DWP officials to have full access to their online job search activity.

Concerns have been raised that this new system will be used to enforce the 35 hours a week job search rule, with DWP officials monitoring time spent on the website, or the numbers of jobs applied and searched for.  Claimants could be forced to waste both their own and potential employer’s time by sending in endless applications for jobs they are not qualified for.  Job Seekers could feel compelled to spend hours on computers pointlessly clicking their way round the site in the hope of demonstrating job seeking activity.

So far it is unclear exactly how any monitoring will take place.  With DWP staff under constant pressure to sanction benefit claims it is far from unthinkable that a lack of Universal Jobmatch activity will be used as an excuse to stop benefits.   From now on Jobcentres will not just compel claimants to look for jobs, but may compel claimants how they should look for jobs.  Jobcentre’s have a notoriously desperate track record of actually helping people find work, but still claimants will be forced to abandon their own initiative and follow the diktats of DWP staff.

The DWP are triumphantly announcing that the new service will allow job seekers to access job search via their smart phone, or wireless connections.

Once again the clueless DWP is assuming that people living on £70 a week –  or less for those under 25 – all secretly have iphones and superfast broadband.  For the impoverished few claimants without the latest gadgets, they claim that internet cafes can be used to access the new mandatory service.

Internet cafes can cost between £1 and £3 an hour depending on where you live.  Even if unemployed claimants – who are increasingly being pushed into using food banks for survival – can afford to spend half their income on internet cafes, these are not secure environments for revealing confidential personal information.

This  Government’s willing ignorance when it comes to personal online security is likely to lead to identity fraud on an unprecedented scale.  Those with little knowledge of computers will be vulnerable to having their entire identity stolen by any dodgy bastard who hangs around internet cafes offering to ‘help’ people access benefit services.  And that’s before the site inevitably gets hacked and millions of people’s personal information is placed in the public domain.

The problems with Universal Jobmatch don’t end there.

Other recruitment agencies are hardly likely to hand over all of their vacancies to Monster Jobs.  It is likely many will boycott the site completely – meaning there could be even less jobs on the new scheme than the pitiful amount available under the old.

There even seems to be potential for the site to be used by stalkers, abusive ex-partners or loan sharks to track people down.  Employers, of any size, will be able to select candidates for job vacancies who will then be compelled to apply or face sanctions.  Whilst personal details are to be anonymised, this still means any employer could for example gain the details of every unemployed teaching assistant in the local area (or people with even more specific skills/qualifications).  If the employer informs the DWP they want to interview these people then claimants will have no choice but to send in applications complete with personal details.

According to a must read article published on the Open Rights Group website, potential ‘employers’ will only be asked to provide a verified post code and phone number to gain access to the service.

Like so many of Iain Duncan Smith’s crazy schemes, Universal Jobsmatch is not just draconian, but fucking stupid.   It is also likely to be expensive.  Whilst poor families are being socially cleansed from big cities and disabled people face brutal benefit cuts, the DWP is throwing money around like confetti on endless reforms which are doomed to disaster.

For more details on Universal Jobmatch, and many other areas of data protection laws relating to claimants visit:  http://www.consent.me.uk/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Give Up Work To Attend Workfare Say New DWP Guidelines

Benefit claimants who are working part time could be forced to give up work to attend workfare new documents from the DWP suggest.  Those who refuse will face the highest levels of benefit sanctions which could see some claimants stripped of support for up to three years.

The Provider Guidance for the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme has recently been updated and is now available online (PDF).  MWA is four weeks workfare for community based organisations and functions as a form of Community Service for claimants who are judged to be not trying hard enough to find work.  Already the scheme is mired in difficulties, with major charities pulling out and the DWP desperately trying to cover up details of the programme.

What has not been publicly announced is that the DWP expects some part time workers to also be sentenced to the scheme.  When Universal Credit is introduced, allegedly next year, part time workers will be expected to constantly look for more work or better paid work in order to receive in work benefits such as Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefits.

It appears that plans have now been made to ensure those who are unable to find full time work can now be sent on workfare.  According to the new documentation, those working part time work will only be able to continue in employment whilst also attending workfare if it is ‘practicable’.

“In exceptional circumstances JCP may refer a customer who is working part time. If this is the case, as MWA will involve up to 30 hours work activity per week, it may be difficult to fit in part time work, but customers should, where practicable, continue with (or start) any part-time work and declare any earnings.”

Whilst this paragraph seems to leave the DWP’s  intentions unclear, it could clearly be read to mean that in some cases part time work should be stopped in order to attend workfare.  And this is important because these are the guidelines which welfare-to-work advisors follow when dictating to claimants how they should live their lives.

It is unlikely that the DWP actually intend anyone to give up part time work to attend workfare – and anyone who faced sanctions as a result of refusing to do so would very likely win an appeal.  On the front line of delivering welfare-to-work contracts however this is very likely to take place without the DWP even  becoming aware of it.

Welfare-to-work companies with MWA contracts, who include the notorious A4e, are paid for every unemployed person sent to them that they find a workfare placement for and that’s all.  Unlike the Work Programme, there is no payment by results on this scheme, because it is designed as punishment, and not support to actually help people find work.

Therefore it is in the financial interests of welfare-to-work companies to make sure everyone sent to them ends up on placement.  Should a claimant turn up who is working part time then the advisor will head to the rulebook, where they will read the above quote.  From that paragraph they may well infer that the claimant has to give up their part time work because the advisor is unable to find a workfare placement which means it’s ‘practicable’ for them to carry on.  The alternative would mean sending the claimant back to the Jobcentre, which they are not supposed to do under the guidelines and means the welfare-to-work company would lose money.

Now at this point the claimant might decide this is a load of bollocks and get on the phone to their Jobcentre, CAB or anyone else who is likely to help.  But sadly many claimants won’t.  With welfare-to-work companies empowered to throw around benefit sanctions like confetti, few claimants are now confident enough to challenge even the most perverse decisions.

This is how fuck ups happen on the front line.  Fuck ups which might only be embarrassing for the DWP, but can be devastating in individuals lives.  Badly thought through and poorly explained policy combines with profit hungry welfare-to-work sharks, and benefit claimants to terrified to complain, to wreak devastation in the lives of often the most vulnerable claimants.

And all too often no-one even hears about it, let alone cares.

Join the Week of Action Against Workfare beginning on December 8th.

The Bigotry Behind Family Values at the DWP

Today’s Guardian revelation that Iain Duncan Smith’s key advisor also draws a salary as a political lobbyist for a right wing think tank gives a clear indication of the culture which is emerging at the DWP.

Phillipa Stroud is the co-chair of the Centre for Social Justice, an investment banker and Tory dominated think tank which has been behind much of this Government’s welfare reforms.  Stroud, a failed Tory candidate in the 2010 election, is most famous for the allegations that she helped establish a church and nightshelter where she attempted to cure people of their sexuality.

The Observer featured the story of one former victim of this church back in 2010:

“Abi, a teenage girl with transsexual issues, was sent to the church by her parents, who were evangelical Christians. “Convinced I was demonically possessed, my parents made the decision to move to Bedford, because of this woman [Stroud] who had come back from Hong Kong and had the power to set me free,” Abi told the Observer.

“She wanted me to know all my thinking was wrong, I was wrong and the so-called demons inside me were wrong. The session ended with her and others praying over me, calling out the demons. She really believed things like homosexuality, transsexualism and addiction could be fixed just by prayer, all in the name of Jesus.”

Another former resident of the night shelter, Kacey Jones, claimed:

“Philippa was still around when I first moved in,” Jones said. “There was a ‘discipleship house’ for Christians struggling with issues, including their sexuality. They told me my feelings weren’t normal. I didn’t want to be gay, I wanted to be like everybody else, get married, have kids and please my parents.”

Stroud appears to have accused those who have come forward of lying and says she would never attempt to cure people of homosexuality.  However the New Frontiers Church, of which she and her husband are still active members, appear to have other ideas.

Andrew Wilson is a former gay man who abandoned his sinful lifestyle opting to worship the giant cock in the sky instead.  As a senior figure at the New Frontiers Church he writes regularly on their website, often on matters concerning sexuality.  Here he tells the story of a ‘very attractive (honest) young woman’ he met at a conference and who had abandoned her sinful lesbian lifestyle:

“The thing is, my partner was so astonished at the change in my life, and so challenged by what had happened to me, that she came along to church – and soon afterwards, she became a Christian as well! We are now separated, we share the raising of our son together, and we are both praying that God will continue to change us, and even give us good Christian husbands.”

Phillipa Stroud has been joined at the DWP by Mark Hoban who was recently promoted to Employment Minister.  Hoban’s voting record reveals him to be one of the most homophobic Ministers to have served in government in over 15 years. 

This cluster of bigots at the DWP is headed by Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith, who said in 2006 that same sex couples: “don’t even register on the Richter scale of how to bring up children”.

And this brings us nicely back to Iain Duncan Smith’s astonishing attack on step parents, single parents and other non traditional family structures last week.  This is about far more than outdated tory prejudices or weird cultish Christian beliefs.

The Centre for Social Justice was founded by Iain Duncan Smith and has long been obsessed with the role of fathers and their importance in bringing up children (as long as there aren’t two of them).  Whilst this would seem a noble agenda it hides a hard-hearted religious fervour which is now beginning to impact on government policy.

Whether through choice or circumstance, any family which does not fit Iain Duncan Smith’s Victorian morality can expect to find themselves under increased attack.  Don’t be fooled by his recent reluctant and opportunist conversion to gay marriage.  IDS has justified this personal u-turn by saying:  “I’m for things that are about stability. I think our biggest problem is actually with cohabiting parents breaking up at the rate they do — heterosexual cohabitees, not gay couples — because they’re the ones leaving the trail of devastation afterwards.”

So whilst his advisor Phillipa Stroud will attempt to pray the gay out of same sex couples, Iain Duncan Smith will be hunting down families who have separated who he blames for all of today’s ‘social problems’.  The nasty party is still alive and thriving at the heart of the DWP.