The following blog piece is adapted from the void blog.
Confusion reigns as usual at the DWP as the bodged roll out of Universal Jobmatch begins. It has never been more important to know, and enforce your rights. We suggest you visit consent.me.uk for detailed advice and to print useful documents to bring with you next time you go to the Jobcentre.
Note: The job centre staff union has also confirmed that Universal Jobmatch is not mandatory.
Further note: For the latest on your rights regarding Universal Jobmatch, see this page.
As recently revealed, it appears that some Jobcentres are attempting to mandate unemployed claimants to give up their data protection rights by stealth, via the new job-matching computer system. Once signed up to the new database, Jobcentre staff will be able to monitor all job seeking activity by spying on applications and covers letters. Claimants who refuse, or are unable send out huge amounts of spam applications to employers, may face benefits being stopped.
Of most concern is that anyone pretending to be an employer will now be able to use the new service to track down groups of claimants and compel them to come and be interviewed. Already the Jobcentre’s vacancy database is riddled with scams, sex work, or the kind of commission only sales jobs that are likely to end up featured on Rogue Traders. The potential for abuse of the new system is terrifying.
It is quite possibly unlawful for claimants to be forced to surrender their rights under the Data Protection Act by using benefit sanctions to blackmail people into signing up to the new scheme.
Despite what bullying Jobcentre bosses may claim, the latest information from the DWP confirms that the scheme is not yet mandatory.
Read more about your rights here and print the guidance in case it’s useful to show on your next appointment at the Jobcentre. At present DWP policy, according to the most recent documentation, is that claimants should not be mandated to sign up – so don’t! (But be careful out there, see below for the information on Jobseeker Directions.) A mass rejection of the scheme now will help put a spanner in the work programme and any future state snooping into how claimants look for work.
There are fears that the new system will be used to police claimants when Universal Credit is introduced next year. Under the new benefits regime, claimants will be expected to spend 35 hours looking for work each week. The DWP, or even Work Programme contractors like A4e, could use the new system to force claimants to spend hours clicking through the site or pointlessly applying for unsuitable vacancies just to meet this 35 hour a week condition. Part-time workers, sick or disabled claimants and single parents will face similar conditions.
It is possible that there may be some attempt to bully claimants to sign up via a Jobseekers Direction. This is a formal order which means a claimant can be forced to take any reasonable steps dictated by Jobcentre advisors to find work or face a benefit sanction. People should also be advised that Jobseekers Directions can now be given verbally. We suggest if you are unclear on anything your Jobcentre advisor says to you that you should ask them to clarify whether it is a direction, and take notes of what is said to you.
Should this happen then claimants could sign up but refuse to grant the DWP access to their online account. Claimants are also advised to set up anonymised email accounts with providers like yahoo and hotmail. Don’t tell them anything you don’t have to.
It can be difficult to challenge the Jobcentre with the ever present threat of being plunged into immediate poverty due to the sanctions regime.
Everyday more local groups are coming together to resist the demolition of welfare. There are many facebook pages and groups where folk in the same boat may know of a group near you. Please feel free to post any links in the comments to local groups established to support claimants, and we will forward them to johnnyvoid.wordpress.com where a list will soon be published.