Jobseeking goes digital – a lesson in how propaganda gets into the press

Computer illiterate: The government is forcing people to claim benefits and search for jobs online - and then claiming that they are "flocking" to it of their own free will.

Computer illiterate: The government is forcing people to claim benefits and search for jobs online – and then claiming that they are “flocking” to it of their own free will.

We seem to be going through another period of closely scrutinising the practices of the press, in the wake of Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre’s reprehensible treatment of Ralph Miliband (and others) in the pages of the Rothermere Rag.

Let us take a moment to remember that most articles that are published in newspapers are not actually generated by their editors (even in right-wing, attempted-mind-control efforts like the Mail and the Murdoch pulps); many originate as press releases from outside sources, including the government.

This brings us to that great bastion of honesty and truthfulness – and how to hide it – the Department for Work and Pensions’ press office.

This organisation’s latest effort is entitled Jobseekers embrace digital revolution and has about as much to do with making jobseeking easier in 21st century Britain as I have with cock-fighting in 19th-century America.

“The way people claim benefits is being revolutionised with the proportion of claims made online more than doubling in a year – saving taxpayers money and paving the way for the introduction of Universal Credit,” the release begins. This may be true, but is it being presented in a truthful manner?

Isn’t it more accurate to say that the DWP has demanded that more benefit claims must be made online, making it more difficult for jobseekers who do not have their own computers, who are not computer-literate, or who do not live in areas with high-quality internet access to make any kind of claim at all?

And “paving the way for the introduction of Universal Credit” seems a misrepresentation as well. Wasn’t UC supposed to have been introduced in April this year, but has been delayed because of problems with the software that is supposed to get several computer systems communicating together?

To act as spokesman for the announcement, Employment Minister Mark Hoban is wheeled out. He’s the one who has admitted that he doesn’t understand how any of the benefit system works, so how is he supposed to have any kind of grip on what’s happening online?

“Employment Minister Mark Hoban has hailed the dramatic rise in online claims as the digital revolution in action. In August 2011 only around 1 in 10 people claimed online; that increased to 3 in 10 in August 2012 – and a year later this has rocketed to 8 in 10.”

In fact, it is true that much of this would have happened as part of the continuing revolution the Net is bringing to people’s lives. For many, online claiming will now be much easier than sending off for a paper claim form, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. The problem is the way this is being pushed as the future when it is a future that still excludes a small but significant proportion of the population. Online claiming discriminates against some people – why is the DWP so relaxed about that? Because it wants to prevent people from claiming?

Now for an outright lie: “Jobseekers are also increasingly finding jobs online – the government’s new jobsite, Universal Jobmatch, which automatically matches people’s skills to a job which suits them, is now receiving more than 5 million searches every day.”

So much about that paragraph is wrong. People aren’t finding that many jobs online because Universal Jobmatch is riddled with errors and – let’s be honest – crime! The scandals have been racking up ever since it was introduced late last year – fake job ads that are actually phishing scams, intended to get jobseekers to part with their bank account details; ‘opportunities’ that actually seduce young women into working in the sex industry; job ads that demand money from applicants before they may be considered for positions that (most likely) don’t exist.

So why is UJM receiving more than five million searches every day? Answer: because Job Centre employees keep telling people that using it is mandatory – even though it isn’t; this is a lie – and they must not only spend huge amounts of time using it but must apply for something like three jobs a week in order to avoid having their benefits sanctioned.

Then there’s the rarity of updates. One user complained to yr obdt srvt that no new jobs have been added to the system for the last three weeks – but he is still expected to apply for three jobs a week. How is that supposed to work?

Under those conditions, it’s not quite such an achievement, is it? It’s more like blackmail, intimidation with threats.

And, let’s not forget – searching for jobs is not the same as getting jobs.

“Mark Hoban, Employment Minister said: ‘The modern world is digital. Many employers only advertise vacancies online, and most want their new recruits to have IT skills. So it is vital that we support jobseekers to develop the skills they need.'”

Hang on – what? How does forcing people to apply for jobs, using a discredited system, count as support to develop skills? It doesn’t. Also, while it may be true that many employers now only advertise online, it is also true that many of those vacancies – if not most of them – do not appear on UJM and it is therefore more of a liability than an asset.

“‘These figures show that our efforts are paying off, with jobseekers flocking to use Universal Jobmatch and 80% embracing the opportunity to manage their benefits online. People are showing us that they are ready for the digital shift that Universal Credit will bring.'”

No, they’re not. He – or at least whoever told him to say those words – is deliberately confusing a system that forces people to carry out certain tasks with one to which they come willingly. The latter would suggest that they are ready for the “digital shift” he describes; the former – what we are seeing – shows us that people are being forced to use a flawed system against their better judgement in order to allow a lying government to justify its next crime against the poor and unwaged.

“The focus on online services is part of a cultural change in how people will interact with the welfare state and is an essential part of Universal Credit. The new benefit is claimed and interacted with online.”

That’s right. And woe betide any poor soul who doesn’t have the ability to do this.

“As well as being more convenient for claimants, this digital push better prepares them for the world of work, where digital skills are increasingly required.”

No it doesn’t, for reasons already stated.

This kind of propaganda is bread and butter for the press. The current squeeze on newspaper profits means that more and more papers are employing fewer and fewer reporters – and those who get jobs aren’t likely to have been properly trained (we’re more expensive, you see). Therefore, reporters’ time is at a premium and press releases are a quick and easy way to fill papers. Most don’t get a spelling check, let alone a fact check.

And that is how a lot of inaccurate information gets downloaded straight into the brains of an accepting readership.

19 thoughts on “Jobseeking goes digital – a lesson in how propaganda gets into the press

  1. jed goodright

    ‘kin excellent ‘kin deconstruction
    this happens all the time at local level which is why weekly local newspapers (sic) read like a police review of the year …. with the sports results

  2. noneoftheabove1

    What’s with PWC? Is it true that Mark Hoban worked for them, then he asked them to check health & disability assesments and they paid him in non cash benefits? If so, does this look and smell like a fish?

    1. Mike Sivier

      Yes I did; and I knew there was something I was missing! Trouble is, I only had late last night in which to write it (going out today). Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Ian

    2 months ago my cousin who does not have a landline,, let alone internet, (she is 53) had to sign on and she was told she had to do it online, she had to register with UJ and she had to tick the box allowing the JSA advisor too see what she had applied for and also how long she was on the site. She was told she had to spend at least two hours a day on the site searching and to use the library for access. I helped her register, and after that it was impossible to use as every time you applied for a job you had to sign in again and it didnt recognise you (even though in the top it said you were signed in). I t is a joke site, I told her to tell her JSA advisor it didnt work and it was his job to show you as she had made every effort. The JSA advisor at her next meeting tried and could not make it work either. Fortunately she found anothr job quite quickly with no help from the job centre.. It is unbelievable what is happening, and as most (like my cousin) dont know their rights they are being pissed on by the DWP from a great all the librarys internet in the area had no internet acccess for a week during that time because of ‘server errors’, and two out of three are due to close next year because of cuts .Some help they are!

    1. David Litherland

      Hi. There is currently a Judicial Review into the legality of UJ and if you or anyone would like to help the court case against it by sharing your experience please contact [email protected] for more info. The more witness statements that can be gathered the better. Thanks.

  4. Wei Wu Wei

    A huge number of people apply for benefit over the phone where another person takes information from them and fills in the information on their behalf as if they have applied over the internet. I wonder if telephone applications like this are lumped into the internet application category? I am absolutely sure that more than 2 out of 10 applications are made using paper forms or over the telephone. The 8 out of 10 figure for internet applications just has to be bogus.

  5. Pingback: Jobseeking goes digital - a lesson in how propa...

  6. beetleypete

    On my soapbox for this one. It isn’t just benefit applications, and job applications where this bites. Whole areas of the country, and swathes of the population, are being marginalised by this issue. Denied ‘online discounts’ by suppliers of all kinds, unable to check phone and utility bills, and generally being made to feel second class, in an electronic society. Access to the Internet is taken for granted by so many. In rural areas, or poorer inner city areas, this is just not the case. It may be in some libraries, but how do you get there, if you have no money, or live in a rural community, with little or no public transport.

    There is also the lack of understanding of the whole process by many less well-educated people, and many older people. This doesn’t just apply to the Internet, try getting a decent mobile signal outside most big cities. Calls drop out, texts are not received, and it is impossible for some people to be contacted at all.
    Progress is often good, but not when it is too little, too soon. Until the majority can access all these features and applications, they should only be a secondary, not primary, means of communication.

    Here is my own blog post on this matter. Not political, just personal.

    Regards, Pete.

  7. Joan Edington

    Your last paragraph that gives job cuts as a reason for the press using releases from the government applies equally to the BBC these days. In the past I went by their news, as the one most likely to be the truth, but now they are as bad as the average tabloid. In fact, I think they may be worse since they are afraid of losing their right to license fees if they don’y kow-tow to their masters.

    As for UJM, I am just glad that I am retired. I did most of my job-hunting online 12 years ago, when I was made redundant, but at least the Job Centre let me use agency sites that were relevant to my skills, rather than the pile of sh*t the DWP force folk onto nowadays.

  8. Big Bill

    Have you read Flat Earth News by Nick Davies? It explains how as a consequence of the race to cut costs many ‘reporters’ these days do just as you say, rewrite press releases.

  9. David Litherland

    There is currently a Judicial Review into the legality of forcing people to register with Universal Jobmatch. If anyone would like to help by describing their experience of the site please contact [email protected]. Thanks.

  10. alan penlington

    i am not defending the d.w.p but you can refuse to go online and just fill in the booklet looking for work by writing down what you have been doing i do it that way as due to government cuts they closed our libary this gets my adviser irate but as i tell them i think i will just keep writing down what ive done ….

  11. Florence

    And so it came to pass, IDS has revealed his latest hand…..

    “The document warns Duncan Smith that he cannot simply issue a ministerial order to make those who have been found unfit for work to look for, or take up work. Fresh primary legislation would be needed, but he fears parliament does not have time for that process before the 2015 general”

    DWP documents show that IDS is illegally trying to make life even more difficult for the ill & disabled, or should I say lethal? He wants the JC+ staff to force ill & disabled people into full time workfare.

    Why doesn’t he pick on some more his intellectual equals? Like 5 year olds, or Klu Klux Klan?

  12. Peter

    Most jobs on Universal Jobmatch are for self employed catalogue distributors. The same jobs turn up time and time again but they change the job titles and name of the company.

    UJ is a complete joke. A high school student could deliver a better system than this pile of s%&t!

Comments are closed.