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/
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