Universal Jobmatch or Jobseekers’ Home-grab?

I predict this result when using the government’s new Universal Jobmatch. Picture from the Thurrock Heckler.

An administration united behind three key principles: freedom, fairness and
responsibility.” – David Cameron, first Coalition press conference, May 2010.

The government’s new online tool, which it claims is intended to make searching for a job easier, came into service on Monday. You might think that’s a good thing.

Think again!

It seems the appropriate term for the new system is “Orwellian”, as it tries to funnel jobseekers into any work that is available – no matter how inappropriate – and monitors responses in order to apply sanctions for any misplaced keystrokes.

These sanctions go up to three years without benefit. Bearing in mind the number of jobseekers who are living in social housing (they’re without jobs; of course they won’t be living in mansions) I think it’s safe to agree with a friend of mine, writing on Facebook: “You watch the homelessness figures skyrocket now!”

To me, that’s what it looks like: Another bid to grab people’s homes. Why the government should be so obsessed with depriving the population of its dwelling-places, I do not know – but I’m not looking forward to hearing the reason.

This is how my friend informed me about the new system:

WARNING: The government have introduced the new Orwellian jobsearch system on the directgov website.

“I was told by my adviser at the jobcentre that after some point next year, account registry will be mandatory for all JSA claimants, after which, they will be able to monitor every job you view, and when you view any job, you will not be able to leave the screen until you select a reason why you did not apply for that job.

It wont give you the details to apply for the job unless you register an account, and if you leave, the cookies will just tell them ‘refused to answer the question’.

They’re removing the Jobseekers’ Agreement. which effectively means they can now force people with First Class degrees or above to scrub toilets for four hours-plus per week, with no gain in pay.

They’re gonna call and spot-check all the jobs they recommend you for as well – even if they recommend you for jobs you know you’ll never get.

One slip-up and you lose your unemployment entitlement. First mistake: 13 week penalty, no pay. Second mistake: six months’ penalty, no pay. Third mistake: THREE YEAR penalty, no pay.

You watch the homelessness figures skyrocket now – because the fact of the matter is, there simply ARE NO JOBS for people. How many people in Pembrokeshire, where I live, unemployed? Thousands. How many jobs for the same area? A few hundred maybe. That’s for an entire SHIRE [county], not a town.”

According to OpenRightsGroup.org, a US company was commissioned to deliver this service – Monster Worldwide, an online recruitment and technology service firm, infamous for many major personal data losses through hacking. According to a Freedom of Information request made to the government, Monster was the only company invited to tender for the contract. The system does not require the consent of the participant – it is mandatory. Job Centre staff and external contractors – we don’t know who – will have full access to all user activities, including correspondence with employers, content of CVs, applications, job searches, feedback from employers, interviews offered and personal profiles.

Job Centre staff will be able to attach job vacancy details to user accounts – and those users must then apply for those jobs. It doesn’t matter how inappropriate those jobs might be – they must apply. Otherwise: sanctions.

It’s a stunning infliction of coercion and repression on a sector of society that has no defence against it. Details on the Jobmatch database remain there for 18 months after a user leaves the system, implying a huge invasion of their privacy. Add to that the fact that this ‘service’ will be integrated with central and local government and private sector databases, showing wages paid, hours worked, credit ratings, electoral roll entries and tax liability – it will be part of a huge tool to check up on you and make sure you don’t have cash you shouldn’t have. Because, at the end of the day, it’s all about keeping you down.

And remember the other Snoopers’ Charter – the one being pushed through by Theresa May? Not only will the government – and who knows who else? – have access to your financial information; it will also be able to check your communications, track your contacts and work out your opinions and sympathies from that. Orwellian: Big Brother really is watching you.

The sanctions do, indeed, run to three years without benefit. Workfare – the mandatory work scheme – is also a possibility. Claimants must be able to give evidence that they spend 35 hours per week doing job search activities.

I wonder how that is going to work?

I don’t think it will.

Users will be unable to provide evidence of every single minute’s work; they will make mistakes; they will get frustrated and intentionally abuse the system. Then they’ll be off the books. Then they’ll be in financial trouble.

Then they’ll be homeless.

Alongside all the people who’ve been thrown out because they couldn’t afford the Bedroom Tax, or because they couldn’t pay their council tax under the new relief schemes that are coming in.

I wonder what the government plans to do with all these houses that will be going spare?

One thing’s for sure, though: I don’t think “freedom” will have anything to do with it.

Or “fairness“.

28 thoughts on “Universal Jobmatch or Jobseekers’ Home-grab?

  1. Guy Walsh

    This is without doubt the scariest thing I’ve read this year. Taking away our freedom, our choice, and forcing us to be slaves to the capitalist system.

    The loss of life will be horrific.

    1. Mike Sivier

      You had me right up to “The loss of life will be horrific”.
      … Although there might in fact be loss of life, indirectly. People WILL lose benefit, and it seems likely that, with the other measures coming in, some of them WILL lose their homes. After that, who knows what might happen? Loss of life may enter into this issue then.

      1. chibipaul

        Well they are already losing 70 odd per week with the help of Atos
        Don’t worry, suicides will rise and having no money at all for up to three years is not good for anyone’s health.

        So I think it is fair to say that loss of life will ensue.
        It will at the very least shorten more than a few lifespans.

        And hey, even if you aren’t dead, you’re out of a home under the railway arches.
        Either way you are no longer a statistic the DWPlc have to worry about.
        Then the government can say with all honesty that they have reduced unemployment figures. That has to be good for the economy, right?

  2. Angie

    Can someone please tell me why are people not coming together to do something can we get this government out or do we have to wait until 1015 and I’m 60 who will give me a job at my age, sorry silly me there are no job’s out there.

    1. Lydia

      People are coming together and protesting and petitioning – but the major media for some reason neglect to cover this, and the government just ignore it.

    2. mil'a

      Angie, the fact that you don’t get a job, will do nothing to change your job seeker’s allowance, All you have to do is show that you applied for many jobs and no one has hired you.

  3. S.M.

    “They’re removing the Jobseekers’ Agreement. which effectively means they can now force people with First Class degrees or above to scrub toilets for four hours-plus per week, with no gain in pay.”

    So what? You have a first class degree, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have to put your own bread on the table.
    It’s entitled assholes who think like this that have destroyed this country. You should have to work for your right to exist, it shouldn’t be handed to you on a plate.

    1. Mike Sivier

      You should indeed have to work for your right to exist. I’ll remember those words next time I come into contact with some incompetent buffoon in a high-powered job, who only got there because his (or her) Daddy has an Old School Tie.
      These are the idiots taking up jobs that, by rights, should go to the owners of those First Class degrees and – because they ARE idiots – cacking up the economy of the country. It’s entitled assholes like this that have destroyed this country.
      I agree with you 100 per cent!

  4. Bill Kruse

    “Add to that the fact that this ‘service’ will be integrated with central and local government and private sector databases, showing wages paid, hours worked, credit ratings, electoral roll entries and tax liability ” except that it won’t be because none of this will work. The technology doesn’t exist to make it and any bunch driven by the screaming hysterical incompetence of Iain Duncan-Smith won’t be developing it anytime soon. It’s pie-in-the-sky stuff.Duncan-Smith’s a fantasist.

    1. Michael Natkanski

      I agree Bill…I spent years in IT and I totally agree the technical expectations of the DWP are ‘optimistic’….about as realistic and trying to have sex with the fairies at the bottom of the garden….but the contractors know this, and will just proceed as normal, taking a fat wedge, and then abandoning the project as per the contract due to impossible political interference from the fairy shaggers…

  5. Mike Sivier

    Bill and Michael: You raise a very good point. Perhaps some of us are worried about things that aren’t going to happen. I wonder what they’ll find to torture us instead?

    1. Bill Kruse

      The involvement of the giant and discredited American insurance company Unum suggests they’ll be doing away with the benefits system altogether thus opening up a multi-billion pound private insurance market. No doubt all the DWP personnel involved from Lilley (who first got them in as advisors in the early 90s) through Purnell (who wrote the first Telegraph article suggesting that all the disabled were faking it) to IDS, will become multi-milllionaires as a consequence. Their rationale for ending the benefits system will be that sadly, though a worthy idea, inpractice it was overwhelmed by scroungers and that’s why there’s been this continuous talk of pan-triple generational worklessness (for which there’s no evidence) referral to 120,000 families who each cost the taxpayer X pounds annually (again not true there’s only a handful) the continuous pretence that housing benefit is only for the unemployed (absolute nonsense as I’m sure most here know) the suggestion that huge percentages of the disabled are really ‘fit to work’ a term which has no legal meaning but sounds good and the figures given are always those before appeals are heard (which turn those figures around completely). There’s no opposition to any of this from the Milliblands as Labour are in this evil up to their necks too. They all want a piece of the billionaire pie! Expect chaos soon as an entire generation which has paid National Insurance all its life finds out there’s no NHS any more to treat them and there’s no sickness or unemplyment available either. This country will burn.

      1. Mike Sivier

        To pick out just one part of the above – it is extremely disappointing that Ed Miliband and Labour aren’t fighting the welfare changes tooth and claw. I’m not the only one who has sent them the facts but still we get back bland – as you say – responses about making sure the benefit system helps everybody back into work. That includes people whose disabilities mean they can never ever work again. It’s a cause of deep concern, although it shouldn’t stop people voting for Labour as the least dangerous choice (the Tories being the most dangerous as they are the most likely to be elected if Labour doesn’t get in next time – I think we all know what a disaster that would be. The UK as we have known it for most of the last century would disappear to be replaced by a feudal dictatorship – in my opinion).

  6. mil'a

    I don’t see a problem with this tracking system. All you have to do is actively look for work (that’s what you get paid for in Job seeker’s allowance)! You don’t have got get a job, just have something to show for your money: calls, filled in forms etc. An yes, you might have to work for low pay jobs, but even working at minimum, you get more than the benefit! Highest job seeker’s allowance is around £111 p/w, that’s less than £3 p/h if you work full time – no employer will pay you less!

    In the text, it said: ‘there are a few hundred’s of jobs in Pembrokeshire and thousands of unemployed’ – well then apply for the jobs you’ve been offered, be thankful if you got one and if not, no one is going to touch your allowance – because you’ve been actively seeking for job.

    The biggest problem I see is a general public attitude towards work: why do some shitty job if I can do nothing and still get money?
    Well, that’s what they are aiming to eradicate – those who do nothing while ‘seeking for job’.

    1. Mike Sivier

      So in your opinion it’s okay for the government to compile a large database about you, which it may then pass on to commercial organisations without your knowledge or permission (If it can find software that can manage this, despite what Bill and Michael – above – have said)? And in your opinion it’s okay for the government to set standards for the jobsearch that are high and difficult to prove?
      I think the point about hundreds of jobs being available while many thousands of people are looking for work is that there aren’t enough jobs around that people will spend 35 hours per week – at minimum – working on getting them.
      My own opinion is that this is true – when I was unemployed I once applied for 200 jobs within a week, and then had a trickle to deal with afterwards. Once those applications were made, I couldn’t make them again.

    2. chibipaul

      You have to be actively seeking work for 35 hours per week afaik
      That is a ridiculous amount of time. I would have to apply for every job in the sodding area every week.
      Even IF it is valid to waste the time of jobseekers to get their pittance, it will also be wasting the time of employers who potentially will be inundated with unsuitable applications.

      The government has conveniently forgotten that job availability is regional, and not universally suitable to all claimants.
      Or they do, but the agenda behind the scheme is purely to show Middle England they are cracking down on the fictitious population of work shy scroungers, and to thoroughly humiliate honest people who have been made unemployed due to the government’s own economic incompetence.

    3. Smiling Carcass

      I work and only bring home £200, if I’m lucky out of which I have over £100 in council tax and rent to pay, leaving me with less than £100 to eat, feed my children, one unemployed, one in education, pay almost £20 a week for gas, £5 for electric, £4 water rates and that leaves nothing, I can assure you. It isn’t the benefits system at fault- it’s low wages.

      Some weeks my wages are as low as £160; I get £1.85p a week housing benefit, and that’s it.

      Before I took this shitty job, despite my specialist telling me working in a cold room at repetitive tasks was not good for my arthritis, the benefits agency promised me the earth in extra payments I’d be entitled to. I got none of them, was denied access to an advisor because I had signed off and anyway, the govt is currently working on removing low pay benefits.

      As for looking for work for 35 hours a week, once you have done a thorough jobsearch for say, two or three hours, there is no way one could find more than an hour or so’s worth because jobs aren’t appearing every day. The job databases are full of jobs that don’t exist anymore, if they ever did and the same jobs are on every jobsite anyway!

      It is a system designed not to weed out these mythical hordes of scroungers, but to set up jobseekers to fail so they don’t have to pay benefits and can award themselves another £40,000 tax break in 2014.

      Wake up and smell the damn coffee!

  7. Darroch

    Based on what I’ve read although Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants may be told that they have to register for Universal Jobmatch they can refuse to and won’t suffer a penalty even if they receive a “direction” to do so from an adviser.


    Just say no.

    It isn’t and in fact can’t be compulsory unless the Data Protection Act 1998 is amended.

  8. CMF

    This system isn’t happening next year, it’s happening NOW.

    I was at the Job Center today and was told I had to sign up to this system and was given no option. Not only that, I still have to sign on every two weeks but my “local” Job Center does not have enough resources and appointment slots to see everybody who is registered on JSA in my area.

  9. sibrydionmawr

    You DO NOT have to sign up for this, as Darroch above has said, as well as many others have on various blogs. It worries me how many will just swallow the crap that petty officials will tell them. Part of the problem is that nothing much seems to be happening in real world public space locations, but conversely there is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by those who seem to have adopted headless chicken mode. There also seems to be a lot of banging of heads against brick walls by those who have bothered to engage brain and do a little research to actually find out that this scheme is not compulsory, and who have then tried to convince others that they do not have to sign up, which promptly falls on deaf ears.

    If you continue to do your jobsearch and present your evidence on paper every two weeks there is nothing that the JCP advisors can do to you. Yes, they may try and convince you that the scheme is compulsory, and that they will mandate you to do it, but even if they issue you with a Jobseekers Direction you do not have to obey it, challenge it and they will have to back down as what they are trying to do has no legality, but if you sign up it makes it hard for you to subsequently withdraw.

    If you refuse to sign up to this system of mass surveillance, for that is what it is, and continue to present your evidence for jobseeking on paper the onus is then on them to prove that you are not doing enough, basically calling you a liar, and they won’t do that lightly as there are some quite severe punishments for defamation under the law. Whilst the Data Protection Act 1998 could be changed to make it possible to make you sign up to things, it’s highly unlikely to happen as it would have to affect everyone equally, and there are some very good reasons why that won’t happen. If we all take a deep breath, calm down and come together we can beat this. Find out what local anti-cuts groups are active in your area and join in. If one doesn’t exist, start one. Create and photocopy some leaflets with clear and truthful information about what is true and is not true about this schem and then with a few others go to nearby Jobcentre, (not your own) and hand them out, but make sure that you are on public property. You will most certainly attract the attentions of the Jobcentre security staff, but they can’t legally do anything to you if you are not on DWP property. You’ll probably also attract the attentions of the police, but as long as you are not causing and obstruction you are excercising your right to peacfully protest. The arrival of the police however may take quite a while, and in that time you may well have managed to have given out quite a few leaflets and spread the word to others. If the police arrive after a while and you have given out a lot of leaflets, be polite to them, and if they ask you/tell you to move on and you don’t want to argue the toss, fine, do as they ask, pat yourselves on the back, go off to a cafe, or home, (cheaper!) and reward yourselves with a nice cuppa – and plan your next small protest outside a different Jobcentre somewhere else next week!

    If you’ve never done anything like this before, it will seem very scary at first, I understand that, but that’s all it is, and very little is likely to happen to you. I speak as someone who has, over the years done ranging from standing out side Jobcentres giving out leaflets to going around squirting superglue into the locks of shops in broad daylight so that they couldn’t close at night, (and also the opposite, superglue in locks so they couldn’t open!). It can be pretty nerve wracking if you’ve never said boo to a goose before, but so long as you remain courteous and non-violent you will have little to worry about… though I’d leave any supergluing till another day when you’ve become more confident/radicalised!

    1. Mike Sivier

      I’d just like to make it perfectly clear that Vox Political does not condone the practice of squirting Superglue into anybody’s locks, although what you all do on your own time is your business.

  10. nothingiseverlost

    Just to let you know that I’ve designed a quick leaflet that people can give out at jobcentres to let other claimants know about their right to refuse to sign up: http://nothingiseverlost.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/jobmatch-leaflet.doc
    It’s not the greatest leaflet ever, but it’s a word document, so you should be able to edit it pretty easily if you want to improve it, or just to add contact details. I don’t really understand why people seem to use PDFs so much, but if for some reason you want it as a PDF instead, here you go: http://nothingiseverlost.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/jobmatch-leaflet.pdf

  11. Fergus

    Unknown to the vast majority of people the UK is signatory to various international human rights agreements which are apparently legally binding on the signatories and have the force of international law. They all stem from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (See the book “Human Rights” from the “aspects of Britain” series published by HMSO) In 1976 the UK signed up to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and in 1990 Thatcher signed the Charter of Paris reaffirming these rights and explaining the importance of human rights in general. The Charter of Paris also states that “Everyone has the right to know and act on their right,.” but other than publish the above book no government since has apparently taken any steps to ensure that Her Majesty’s subjects were informed of their rights, let alone be allowed to act on them.

    Anyway, so far as the present treatment of the unemployed etc. goes Part 3 artricle 6:1 of the ICESCR states “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to work at a job they FREELY choose or accept, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.” Art. 6:2 explains steps to be taken by the government regarding training and its purpose.

    The “Freely chooses or accepts” rules out compulsion and the reason for this is to stop the fascist or communist state claiming YOUR labour for its purpose. This right protects YOUR freedom from coercion.

    Art.7 deals with working conditions, and Art.9 with the RIGHT to social security.

    If the UK government took to heart the Rights in this covenant they would be compelled to run the economy for the benefit of the general population rather than for the benefit of an elite, and there would be little or no unemployment, either short or long term and the UK would be a more equitable country to live in. Successive governments have disregarded these rights and now they are blaming the unemployed for being unemployed. Logical ain’t it?

  12. Chris

    Excellent discussion, I am currently unemployed. Signed up to universal job match to search for jobs but did not tick the access permission check box.

    Was with great pleasure when the words USER HAS NOT PROVIDED PERMISSION ACCESS came up on their screen.

    They then tried to tell me I had to give permission, which I again refused telling them I thought it was an invasion of privacy.

    The job seeker at the next desk picked up on my conversation and proceeded to have a go herself, was good to see.

    This is wrong on so many levels that people should make a personal stand.

    I agree with a JSA, but not like this.

  13. Mike

    I have paid NI for 26 yrs, the company i was with closed after 21 yrs. I have not ticked the box on the universal job match and when i had an interview with my advisor she was most put out.

    She got quite nasty saying i will have to see more of her and that i will have to print out sucessfully sent pages from jobs i have applied for, also she said my cv was no good and is sending me to a natonal careers service, also she set up another interview with her and she muttered to sign another agreement, and this is the day after i sign on.

    I beleive she is punishing me for not ticking the box, ive only been out of work since the start of Dec 2012 i have never been spoke to like this before and its as if i have done something wrong i dread going back.

  14. David Ball

    Leaving aside privacy and human rights issues, the Coalition must be terribly confused about ehir new whizz-bang jobsite. Uploading your CV is supposed to work for you while you’re asleep. Employers will, according to Iain Duncan Smith, search you out by going through the uploaded CVs. Great stuff. Fantabulous idea. Well done guys….

    So why the need for 35 hours a week jobsearch – and it’s supposed to be 35 hours using UJM, regardless of what else you do – when your CV is meant to be working for you? Surely, JSA claimants could just log onto their account two or three times a week to see which employers had asked them for interview?

    I’m not an employer, but I can’t imagine many going through tens of thousands of CVs to look for the handful of people they want to interview. I’ve used the site – you can apply for some of the jobs without using an account – but it’s pretty poor. Although I haven’t totted them up, I would guestimate that MOST jobs are found on other sites. However, I seem to remember reading that IDS had claimed that most jobs will be on UJM. I would suggest that employers will end up going crazy- and boycotting it – with 1,000s of unsuitable applicants applying.

    It’s easy to be cynical and put ideas into people’s heads. But I’m prepared to say that creating unreasonable obligations – I don’t think it’s possible to spend 35 hours a week jobsearching in any real or meaningful sense – is designed to catch people out in order to sanction them. And even if it WERE possible to meaningfully search for 35 hours a week, it would only benefit you as an INDIVIDUAL if not everybody was doing it. If everybody is, it’s the same old game of musical chairs and you may as well all look for work for five hours a week ‘cos you’ll be no worse off.

  15. David Ball

    Here’s another two questions.

    Firstly, is the Coalition interested in the process or the product? By this, I mean are they bothered about the amount of time and effort you spend looking for work OR the number of jobs you apply for? Seems to me they can’t have it both ways. Let’s say a jobseeker – in a good fortnight – finds 15 jobs on the Internet s/he can apply for.

    S/he may be rejected for all of them, but 15 applications is – in my opinion – a fantastic number.

    But because most jobs are applied for through the Internet, and most only ask for CVs and a covering letter – as opposed to filling in an application form – s/he may only need to make small changes to his/her covering letter and CV. So once s/he’s found a job, the actual process of applying can be quite speedy.

    Let’s imagine, then, that the time consuming part is finding them, but that – in total – she only spends six hours on it. What would Jobcentre Plus say about that? Likewise, if she spent 35 hours serching but couldn’t find any suitable jobs, what would they say about THAT? Is is the process or the product which exercises their poor brains?

    Secondly, are the concerned with the raw number of jobs applied for, or the likelihood of you being called for interview. We can all apply for jobs we are blatantly unsuited for – because of qualification and/or experience – in order to pad out the number applied for, but does this do anybody any good?

    You may think that anybody is in with a chance for a manual type job, but I’d argue that that isn’t true. Why would an employer hire a totally inexperienced cleaner / shop assistant / warehouse operative / care assistant [delete as wanted] if they have the pick of experienced canditates. I had a job interview where the guy told me that they were fed up with the Jobcentre feeding them unsuitable candidates. Who wins with this? I didn’t get that job, but at least I had a chance.

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