The new benefit, which will be rolled out nationally from October, will replace all unemployment and sickness/disability benefits along with housing benefits and working tax credits. All claimants who are unemployed or working part time will be expected to sign a ‘Claimant Commitment’ detailing how they will try to find a job or ‘more or better paid work’ if already employed.
Those who do not have a significant health problems will be mandated – under threat of sanction – to take part in Work Related Activity (meaning work, workfare, jobsearch or training) for 35 hours a week. Single parents with children between the ages of 5 and 13 will usually be required to spend 24 hours a week looking for work. Even those with serious disabilities or health conditions, currently in the Work Related Activity Group and claiming ESA, will have some form of mandated jobsearch.
Much of this activity will be centered around Universal Jobmatch, the DWP run website which is littered with spam, scam and spoof vacancies and could even place vulnerable jobseeker’s at serious risk of harm. At present there is still no requirement to tick the box giving the Jobcentre access to your Universal Jobmatch account.
The recently released documents (linked to below and uncovered by @refuted) should be shared and read by all claimants, along with everybody in work who is concerned about redundancy – because this is what you will face should you lose your job.
Jobcentre advisors will have unprecedented powers to compel claimants to carry out whatever old bollocks they can come up with to waste unemployed people’s time looking for jobs which aren’t there. Those who do not meet their Claimant Commitment could face having benefits stopped for up to three years. For those with children this could be devastating, for those severely unwell or disabled it could mean death.
As well as outlining the rules concerning Claimant Commitments the documents also give examples of how the new system might work in practice. A fictional Claimant Commitment shows how a claimant could be mandated to visit her local town centre twice a week to use Universal Jobmatch on the library computers*. She will also be expected to hand in CVs to local shops whilst she is there.
This ignores the fact that many libraries – if you can find one still open – charge for internet access and that she may have to take a bus into town. Astonishingly claimants could find themselves sanctioned because they are too poor to meet their job-seeking requirements.
The other aspect of her claimant commitment shows just how far Universal Credit has descended into farce. How many shops does the DWP think are in this town she lives in? Is she really expected to visit them every week, or even twice a week, to hand in a CV? If there’s one way guaranteed to make sure you don’t get a job somewhere it’s acting like a stalky weirdo who keeps turning up every other day waving a new CV even after being told there are no vacancies.
And this is the key point. There are no vacancies. Whilst those in big cities could just about get away with ‘cold calling’ and visiting employers for 35 hours a week, in small towns this will be ludicrous. Some of them only have a handful of shops. Some only one. Will unemployed people in remote areas be expected to spend 35 hours a week arguing with their local shopkeeper about why they should give them a job?
Such is Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with punishing the unemployed for the failure of government, he has devised a system that is verging on parody. And a system that will soon fall over as millions of claimants swamp Jobcentres to use computers, telephones and printers.
Jobcentres are already creaking under the strain of high unemployment. There is no requirement to tell the DWP you have online access at home even if you do. A recent response to another FOI request also confirms that there is no requirement to give the Jobcentre your phone number or email address. It therefore seems a sensible idea not to tell the Jobcentre you have a computer, or a phone. Demand to use theirs instead and watch Claimant Commitments collapse.
The rules on Claimant Commitments, including information about a seven day ‘cooling off’ period, and how you can demand a review of your commitment, can be read at: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/163018/response/398294/attach/html/3/CC%20Narrative%20short.pdf.html
An example of a Claimant Commitment is available at: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/163018/response/398294/attach/html/4/2451.Annex%201.pdf.html
*as the law currently stands on cookies, you can not be mandated to use Universal Jobmatch anywhere but Jobcentres, so without a change in the law, this aspect of a Claimant Commitment could be challenged.
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