Tag Archives: Jobcentre Plus

Pauline Got Promoted! DWP Management Psychobabble Is Turning Jobcentres Into Cults

pauline-pensIf you want an example of the glassy-eyed idiots currently handed senior positions at the DWP then the twitter feed of the regional manager responsible for 149 Jobcentres in Central England is a good place to start.

When not attending tax payer funded leadership and emotional intelligence workshops, Sandra Lambert seems to spend most of her day tweeting ‘inspirational’ claptrap from her feed @CEDirector_WSD
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The most disturbing thing is that she is not alone. This nonsense seems to extend across DWP management.

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jc-tweets1jeanThe Jobcentre is starting to look more like a cult than a public service.  And like most cults behind the bubbly and uplifting facade lies cruelty, exploitation and abuse. Here’s some more of Sandra’s motivational tweets, along with some words from the victims of the current sanction happy regime in Jobcentres.

“I have been told by staff at the Jobcentre that people like me are ‘scrounging scum’, and told ‘you don’t look sick, you’re lying’” 

MIND report into the impact of benefit conditionality on people with mental health conditions: Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

“When some [staff] talk to you on the phone it is in such a derogatory way that you end up walking away wanting to end your life. Confidence and assertiveness takes a real hit.”

Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

“losing my benefits brought back that feeling of insecurity and struggling… it brought me back to the behaviours that I was used to in addiction.”

High Cost To Pay Homeless Link report into benefit sanctions.

“I explained to my Jobcentre adviser that I suffer severe anxiety and IBS and cannot always leave my home; I gave doctors letters but she said if I didn’t attend [Work Programme provider] she would sanction my money. I had no choice but to go as I cannot pay for food and heat already. I attended the twin training centre and had an anxiety attack. I had to leave and find my way home feeling very ill and frightened; a horrific experience.” Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

Caller E is being threatened with a sanction by her work programme provider. She is unable to leave her two daughters alone – one of whom has health problems – to attend back to work courses in the summer holidays. No help with childcare costs has been offered.

Gingerbread report: Single parents and benefit sanctions, November 2014 (PDF)

“My mum has been taken to court and fined for not being able to pay the shortfall in council tax and is struggling to pay the rent arrears accrued when I was sanctioned and the strain has quite literally smashed our family to pieces – I feel like a burden on her and have felt suicidal on more than one occasion.”

“My partner also cares for me so he was left incredibly stressed and upset from this situation [being sanctioned] due to firstly no money (he has to look after me full time pretty much) and secondly my conditions and mental state became so hard to cope with (it also affected his mental health, he attempted suicide when he could not cope).”

“Starved and lived off what I had [due to sanction]. Scrounged food from bins and only left the house after darkness fell. Had no electric or gas so had to get ready-to-eat food. Struggled and went without nothing for 3 days with just bread and a block of cheese that my friend kindly gave me as it was past its sell by date.”

“The stress put us both in hospital with stress-related problems. We were refused hardship payments but later got this [revoked] because we went to CAB and Shelter. It had a massive effect on our son, who at one point was being considered for going into care because we couldn’t provide for him.”

“I wasn’t long out of a safe house for domestic abuse I tried to commit suicide and my doctor had to put my medication up and I have to get someone to collect them weekly.”

All from Punishing Poverty, Manchester CAB report into the impact of benefit sanctions.

h/t @screenedout @lynnfriedli @boycottworkfare

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Week Of Action Down the Jobcentre Starts August 5th

jobcentre-queueThe Civil Service Rank & File Network  (CSRF) has called for action aimed at Jobcentre Plus in the week beginning the 5 August.

“In the week commencing 5 August we encourage civil servants to work with claimants and others who oppose austerity in your area.

• Hold workplace meetings to discuss the type of action needed to win.
• Stage pickets outside of the Jobcentre to bring workers and claimants together in opposition to the government.
• Occupy the Jobcentre and bring business to a halt for as long as you practically can.

The action taken by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty against Leith Jobcentre is a brilliant example of the kind of protest we are advocating.

CSRF is a network for civil servants who want to resist the government’s attacks on our terms and conditions. With PCS where they put up a fight, without them where they won’t!”

More details on their website at: http://csrfnetwork.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/jobcentre-plus-week-of-action-5-9-august/

Facebook event at: https://www.facebook.com/events/413358982115310/

Please spread the word.

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Jobcentre Illegally Sacked Thousands of Workers

employment-appealIn yet another humiliating court defeat for Iain Duncan Smith, thousands of sacked Jobcentre staff may be entitled to compensation due to an employment tribunal ruling that they were unlawfully sacked.

Thousands of Jobcentre staff were employed on fixed term contracts in 2009 to deal with soaring unemployment due to the recession.  Many of them were then sacked to meet spending targets shortly after this Government weren’t elected.

In a move which demonstrates their utter contempt for both the rule of law and their own workforce, bungling DWP bosses had attempted to avoid paying these workers redundancy payments when they were laid off.

Two former Jobcentre staff, supported by PCS Union,  took the department to an employment tribunal, which ruled they should have been legally paid redundancy.  Thousands of workers sacked by Iain Duncan Smith could now be entitled to claim compensation which is likely to cost up to £1 million.

If Jobcentre bosses can’t even get sacking people right, then what hope is there for people needing help to find a job?

It remains to be seen whether the Secretary of State will attempt to retrospectively change the law – with the craven support of the spineless Labour Party – to avoid the repayments.

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Iain Duncan Smith is a Lying Bastard

IDS-LiarIt is inconceivable that Iain Duncan Smith did not know about jobcentre targets to sanction benefit claims.  It is contemptible that he is now attempting to blame jobcentre staff for his policy.

A story in published by The Guardian last night contains details from a whistle-blower at Walthamstow Jobcentre which confirm the existence of ‘sanction’ league tables.  According to the paper:

“Ruth King, a jobcentre adviser manager, discloses in the email that she has received “the stricter benefit regime” figures for her area, adding: “As you can see Walthamstow are 95th in the league table out of only 109″ – the number of jobcentres in London and the home counties.”

Iain Duncan Smith tried to shrug of this damning testimony in Parliament this morning by saying a reminder was being sent out to jobcentres that they are not supposed to get caught using targets to sanction claimants.

Jobcentres management structures are broken down into regions and districts.  As these league tables cover the whole of the London and the Home Counties, they can only have been authorised by regional management who are headed up by a Work Service Director.*

It is not Jobcentre staff  who are responsible for these league tables, but senior DWP management.  It is astonishing that Iain Duncan Smith can claim he knows nothing about what is taking place under his very nose.

The PCS Union know, district and regional jobcentre management know, jobcentre staff know and claimants certainly know.  Are Iain Duncan Smith and Mark Hoban really so out of touch with what their own managers are doing that they are the only people in the entire organisation who don’t have a clue what’s going on?

Even when presented with the evidence in Parliament this morning Iain Duncan Smith still bleated :  “There are no targets for sanctions”.  The DWP have been caught bang to rights but still ministers plead innocence.

Iain Duncan Smith has said that anyone using targets to sanction claimants will be disciplined.  For once in his life he should follow the Seven Principles of Public Life by being honest, open and accountable and then sacking himself.

*the DWP publish a handy list of regional and district managers for claimants wishing to make complaints at a senior level.  Phone numbers and emails are included (also on google in case it disappears):  http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/jcp-district-managers.pdf

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Universal Jobmatch Goes Mandatory

job-scamThe scandal hit bodged Government spam site Universal Jobmatch will become mandatory in the next few days.

It seems that despite the well documented security problems, which still exist, claimants could be given a Jobseekers Direction to register an account with the site from the beginning of March – some Jobcentres seem to be saying that means tomorrow, the PCS Union have said Monday.  There should still be no requirement to tick the box giving the Jobcentre access to your account.

Internet cookie legislation means claimants can still refuse to use the site from their home computer – and there is really no need to tell the Jobcentre you have a home computer.  Jobcentres will be providing Internet Access Devices for those unable or unwilling to use a home PC.

DWP staff training documents have recently been acquired via a Free of Information request and are worth reading.

The documents are unclear as to how advisors should respond if a claimant refuses to agree to the website’s terms and conditions stating:

“If a user does not agree to the terms and conditions they are directed to speak to their adviser to discuss their reasons for declining.  The claimant will read the disclaimer and then scroll to the lower edge of the page to accept the conditions. “

One interesting point raised in the document training Jobcentre staff themselves on use of the new devices is the risk of identity fraud from people ‘shoulder surfing’.   Staff are warned that areas where the machines are used should be monitored to prevent this.  And they are right.  Internet cafes and libraries have no such protection.  Therefore those without computers forced to access Universal Jobmatch as part of their Jobseeker’s Agreement would be advised to request to only do so in the Jobcentre.  Truth is even if you have got a computer you might as well sit in the Jobcentre and use theirs, especially with heating bills being what they are.

And so the chaos begins.  If millions of people are to be expected to use the new website, and many, most or even a few only elect to use it in Jobcentres, then the system will quickly reach meltdown.  An earlier FOI request revealed that: “Nationally the total number of Internet Access Devices purchased is 2176″.  That means for JSA claimants alone there is just one computer available for every 700 people.  These are the computers Iain Duncan Smith has said he will haul people into Jobcentres to use everyday should they refuse to allow the DWP access to their Universal Jobmatch account.  Whoops.

For the latest info on Universal Jobmatch read, share, tweet and keep an eye on: http://consent.me.uk/universaljobmatch/

UPDATE: consent.me.uk (@refuted) on twitter makes the important point:   “DWP can only mandate #UniversalJobmatch use & registration @ Jobcentres. No where else, inc Home, Library, Cafes, Cell phone etc”

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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.

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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