In an unnerving sign of what may be to come when Universal Credit is introduced, hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants will this week be expected to sign up a shabby website full of broken links, mis-formatted information and pages that don’t load.
The DWP’s new Universal Jobmatch website went live over the weekend. As from today Jobcentres up and down the country will be bullying and harassing claimants into registering with the site which gives DWP busy-bodies unprecedented control over how unemployed people look for jobs.
Whilst the DWP say that signing up to the site is not mandatory (PDF), there are increasing reports of Jobcentres issuing information which suggests benefits may be affected for those who refuse. The best advice is still do not sign unless compelled to. Even if a Jobseekers Direction is issued threatening a sanction for failing to sign up, claimants can still refuse the sign the box which gives the DWP powers to spy on job seeking activity. You do not need to register with the site to access many of the vacancies.
Astonishingly the privacy conditions for the site inform claimants that: “We try to limit access to our searchable CV database only to those employers who have been given permission, but cannot guarantee that people or organisations without permission will not gain access to this database.”
Unfortunately accessing the vacancies may be harder than anticipated, as around half the pages time out before loading. Using this website may well be the first online experience for many claimants – and it doesn’t work.
Even for the lucky few who manage to get a page to load, the number of jobs available is miniscule. There are just 4522 jobs available within five miles of Central London, an area which covers Walthamstow to Greenwich. There are currently around 225,000 people claiming Jobseekers Allowance in the London area.
Many of these jobs are part time, some for just a couple of hours a week. A significant number are ‘self-employed’ such as ‘Nightclub Photographer Salesperson’ (must have own camera). A large amount appear to be for agencies, whilst many more are jobs which require highly specialised skills such as Architect.
Such is the DWP’s obsession with punishing and monitoring claimants that unemployed people could now be compelled to waste time job searching on a website with barely any vacancies, limited functionality and which may even bombard you with spam. Buried in the Terms and Conditions, the DWP state that:
“We cannot protect you from unwanted emails that you may receive that may advertise products or services for sale, although We can choose to restrict the number of emails which an employer may send to you.”
Already many claimants who have visited the site have complained it is worse than the old jobs direct site – a feat that would barely have been thought possible. It’s clear that any money that’s been spent on the new website has gone into the behind the scenes snooping powers it now gives Jobcentres. Spying on unemployed people, with the aim of sanctioning benefits, is far more important to the DWP than providing a website which works and actually contains a decent amount of genuine vacancies.
It’s hardly a surprise that the website is such a mess. The new service was built by Monster Jobs – an international online recruitment firm. The company already has an extensive online jobmatching website. They were hardly likely to develop a better one for the DWP.
Monster Jobs must have been laughing all the way to the bank as the DWP paid them huge some of tax payer’s cash to effectively knobble any competition to their business from the Jobcentre.
There are well founded fears that eventually this bodged website may be used to police the 35 hours a week jobseeking activity which will be demanded when Universal Credit is introduced. Hundreds of thousands of part time workers, as well as those on sickness or disability benefit will also be expected to look for work, quite possibly via Universal Jobmatch. Companies advertising jobs on the site which do not require specific skills or experience could find themselves swamped with tens of thousands of applications as claimants are mandated on mass to apply for vacancies.
The Government’s new benefit regime, Universal Credit, will depend on the largest and most complex IT database ever constructed in history. Over 20 million people are to be transferred onto the new benefit. If Universal Jobmatch is an early sign of the DWP’s ability to procure and manage IT services then it paints a chilling vision of the future when all benefits are to be digital by default.
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