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
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