“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.
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.