Tag Archives: Universal Jobmatch

Day of action against bullying by job centre staff and police


What do you do if you’re a Job Centre manager and a benefit claimant who’s ripe for sanction turns up with someone else as their “representative”?

If you’re in charge of Arbroath Job Centre, you have the man arrested, that’s what!

Yes, you read that correctly. Tony Cox, an activist with the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, had accompanied a female claimant who suffers from severe dyxlexia and reading problems.

She was having several severe panic attacks every day, caused by the stress of filling five Universal Jobmatch applications every day. Cox was there to represent her.

The jobcentre refused to consider reducing the numbers of applications she should make, and insisted that signing up to UJM is compulsory. It is not. Officials objected to Cox’s presence, and he was arrested when he left the building.

He has been charged with “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”.

Imagine the consternation at Caxton House when news filtered through that this had happened. “What? The people are still sympathetic to the unemployed? What do we have to do? We’ve fed them a constant stream of anti-claimant propaganda via our newspapers, supplemented with nightly doses of My obese chainsmoking druggie criminal unemployed neighbour on Benefits Street takes home more money than I do on the telly! There’s nothing else for it – it’s time to open the brainwashing camps!”

Don’t think he wouldn’t, either.

Boycott Workfare wants us to get our retaliation in first – and has organised a day of action across the United Kingdom, to take place on Wednesday (February 25) – the same day Mr Cox will appear in court in Forfar to answer charges against him.

About those charges: ‘Threatening behaviour’ is a catch-all offence in the Public Order Act that is often used by police to cart off people who are a nuisance to authority figures. Back in October 2012, this blog quoted a speech by Rowan Atkinson, calling for its reform.

“I suspect [I am] highly unlikely to be arrested for whatever laws exist to contain free expression because of the undoubtedly privileged position that is afforded to those of a high public profile,” said Mr Atkinson.

“My concerns are… more for those who are more vulnerable because of their lower profile – like the man arrested in Oxford for calling a police horse ‘gay’.”

He said: “Even for actions that were withdrawn, people were arrested, questioned, taken to court… and then released. That isn’t a law working properly. That is censoriousness of the most intimidating kind, guaranteed to have… a ‘chilling effect’ on free expression and free protest.”

Well, this time it will have the opposite effect. People are red-hot with anger about this behaviour, arranged by cowards and bullies who think they can play God with people’s lives.

Boycott Workfare is urging everybody (who can manage it) “to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show their solidarity with Tony and distribute information to claimants urging them to exercise their right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews”.

So, please, print up some literature and turn up outside your local jobcentre to make your feelings known.

Will you do that?

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Was political propaganda as blatant as this under Labour?


The DWP press office put out a diabolical piece of bilge masquerading as news on Friday. It’s so godawful I have to share it with you.

The gist is that the new ‘Claimant Commitment’ a contract “demanding more from jobseekers” is now in place across the whole of the UK, with 635,000 JSA claimants having been forced to sign these agreements.

But let’s go through it in detail, with each paragraph clarified by Vox Political‘s special ‘BS’ translation service.

“The Claimant Commitment has now been successfully rolled out across the country, the latest figures show. It means all new jobseekers and those completing the Work Programme must agree and sign the commitment in order to receive benefits.” Translation: It doesn’t matter that you’ve paid taxes all your working life – you do what we say or we bankrupt you.

“The new agreement sees jobseekers agree the steps they will take each week to give them the best chance of getting into work.” Translation: Agreement has nothing to do with it – we’ll make them jump through hoops in a poodle costume if we want but it won’t help them get a job.

“This could include registering and looking for work through Universal Jobmatch or a recruitment agency.” Not only do we do nothing to help them get a job, we also help identity thieves steal their details and put vulnerable youngsters in the clutches of the sex industry.

“It builds on help already in place.” Obviously we’re having a laugh with this line.

“Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said: ‘With Universal Credit we are creating a modern and sustainable welfare system that is fit for the 21st century – one that supports people when they need it and helps them become independent.” This has nothing to do with the Claimant Commitment but I’ve been told to ‘big up’ Universal Calamity whenever I can, to hide the fact that it’s such an albatross.

“‘The Claimant Commitment redefines the relationship between jobseekers and the state.” To one between slave and master.

“‘Claimants receive greater support to get into work from their work coach-‘ All our work coaches have been given extra training in how to use a whip ‘-and we expect them to do all they can to find a job as quickly as possible as part of the deal for receiving their benefit.’ We know there aren’t any jobs but this simply means we can cut off their cash more quickly when they fail.

“‘Staff have told me it has strengthened their ability to support people into work at the earliest opportunity.’ Those who haven’t gone on long-term sick leave with depressive conditions have developed a kind of dead-eyed look and keep repeating, ‘I’m just following orders’.

“Following an in-depth conversation, work coaches and jobseekers agree regular specific tasks, work preparation and training opportunities that will give them the best chance of finding work quickly.” Tasks… preparation… opportunities! Oh, our sides are splitting! “The penalties claimants could face for failing to meet their responsibilities to get into work are clearly spelt out.” And horrifying.

[The following paragraph is edited as it purports to feature an actual jobseeker] “‘Dizzy’ Guise [not his real name], signed a Claimant Commitment after he was made redundant.” We know our official wording has it that their jobs are redundant, not the people, but it gives us a tremendous sense of superiority over these proles to say that they are redundant instead. “He said it helped him focus on his job search and he’s now working as a business apprentice in Barking.” You’d have to be barking to believe that!

“He said: ‘When I first met my adviser I was probably like every person coming to the Jobcentre, a bit unenthusiastic.'” We want people to think that everyone claiming JSA is a sponger and doesn’t want to look for work.

“‘But I don’t think people know how much the Jobcentre advisers do for them.'” To them.

“‘I thought the Claimant Commitment was demanding, but fair. It motivated me.'” We want people to think that everyone claiming JSA is a sponger and doesn’t want to look for work.

“‘Without that commitment you probably don’t do so many job searches.’” We want people to think that everyone claiming JSA is a sponger and doesn’t want to look for work.

“The new commitment is an important part of the cultural transformation that Universal Credit will bring-” from a free society in which every citizen is equal to one where we can treat you like the scum we think you are “-and will place a strong focus on the responsibilities that claimants must fulfil” … while we accept no responsibility at all for whatever happens.

That seems much clearer now.

Would any jobseekers, who have had to sign this Claimant Commitment, care to tell us what it’s really like?

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Osborne promising full employment – is this an April Fool?

Bottom of the class: If you believe George Osborne's talk about jobs and benefits, you must have been educated at one of Michael Gove's 'free schools'. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

Bottom of the class: If you believe George Osborne’s talk about jobs and benefits, you must have been educated at one of Michael Gove’s ‘free schools’. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

The answer has to be in the affirmative. Conservatives can’t promise full employment because it simply isn’t part of their philosophy.

As this blog has stated many times, Tories need a discontented underclass fermenting away beneath the lowest-paid members of the working class, in order to create the level of fear necessary to keep wages down.

The argument is that a person will not ask for a pay rise if they know their boss will turn around and say, “There are hundreds out there who will work for less than you – pick up your cards on the way out!”

For a more easy-access disproval of Osborne’s claim, we only have to look a little further into his speech – from the part where he said: “For it’s no good creating jobs – if we’re also paying people to stay on welfare.”

Hang on! When did our great Social Security system change from being a safety net to help get people back into work to “paying people to stay on welfare”?

Oh yes, that’s right – when we had an unelected Conservative government foisted on us. Tories pay people to stay on welfare because they need that fermenting underclass. The aim is always not to pay enough (as you will see).

The next few lines contain unfounded claims and opinions. See for yourself:

“We inherited a welfare system that didn’t work.” According to whom?

“There was not enough help for those looking for a job – people were just parked on benefits.” But there isn’t enough help now. Come to that, there aren’t enough jobs. Where are all the jobs, George?

“Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job – some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to work.” How many people, George? Five? Six? You make it seem as though more than a million jobseekers were sitting at home and drawing as much money in social security as at work. That would be a lie, George.

“That’s not fair to them – because they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.” Whereas Conservative policy means what? Oh yes – they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.

“It’s certainly not fair to taxpayers like you, who get up, go out to work, pay your taxes and pay for those benefits.” Tory divide-and-rule. You are different to them, because you have a job. If you are low-paid, it is because they are sucking down your tax money to pay for their extravagant lifestyles (I think we’ve all quite thoroughly killed that particular myth, haven’t we? It doesn’t exist outside the Tory political mind).

“Next Monday is when we do more to encourage people without jobs to find them… Benefits will only go up by 1 per cent – so they don’t go up faster than most people’s pay rises, as used to be the case.” This means people on benefits will start to become much worse-off than they are already. Jobseekers’ allowance used to be pegged at around one-sixth of average pay but will now drop to a far lower proportion, because the Tories lied to you when they said benefit rises were far greater than pay rises. One per cent of Jobseekers’ Allowance at a weekly rate of £71 is 70p; one per cent of the average weekly wage in April 2013, which was £517 per week, is £5.17. You see the difference? Oh, and one more thing: Where are all the jobs, George?

“When I took this job, some people were getting huge payouts – receiving £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits. More than most people could get by working.” How many people, George? Five? Six? One, perhaps?

“So we’ve capped benefits, so that a family out of work can’t get more in benefits than the average working family.” I’m not actually opposed to ensuring that people on benefits can’t take home more than people in work. However, while accurate, this line is disingenuous. George has ensured that a family out of work takes home at least £5,000 less, per year, than an average working family because of the way he and his Tory friends rigged the system. He’s lying to you.

“And we are bringing in a new Universal Credit to make sure work always pays.” He means “pays more than benefits”. He doesn’t mean “pays a living wage”. Spot the difference?

Now here comes some more oppression, based on a really big lie.

“From this month we’re also making big changes to how people go about claiming benefits. We all understand that some people need more help than others to find work.” What work? Where are all the jobs, George?

“So starting this month we’ll make half of all people on unemployment benefits sign on every week – and people who stay on benefits for a long time will have to go to the job centre every day so they can get constant help and encouragement.” Help and encouragement, is it, George? Have you witnessed the kind of “help and encouragement” they get at the job centre? DWP employees should face harassment charges for the disgraceful way they treat their fellow citizens.

“We’re going to require people to look for work for a week first before they get their unemployment benefit. From now on the deal is this: look for work first; then claim the dole. Not the other way around.” Why? In order to drive people into grinding poverty as early as possible? Forcing people to wait until they claim means they could be without money for food, accommodation and utilities for up to a month, while the system processes them. This is not fair. It is cruel and demeaning – especially when Tory George knows there’s no work to be had.

“When people turn up at the job centre they’ll be expected to have a CV ready and to have started looking on our new jobs website.” This is the Universal Jobmatch website that is habitually used by criminals for identity theft, or to offer jobs in the sex industry. It’s so bad that the government itself is planning to ditch it when the contract with its provider runs out in two years’ time. Why would anybody in their right mind use that?

And now here’s the clincher:

“We will ask many of the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits – whether it is making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, or working for a local charity.”

In other words, they will ensure that fewer jobs are available by making jobseekers do the work for nothing. Brilliant idea, George – you are wrecking our economy.

“All of this is bringing back the principles that our welfare state was originally based on – something for something, not something for nothing.” A lie, couched in truth. The Welfare State is based on the principle that people on hard times were able to take advantage of benefits because, when in work, they paid into the system via taxes and National Insurance. That’s the “something for something”. It is not based on the idea that jobseekers have to take jobs off the market by doing them for free. That’s just plain silly.

In fact, George, you are just plain silly.

So, returning to the question in our headline, it’s clear to see the answer.

If anyone here is an April Fool, it’s George Osborne.

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Good riddance to bad rubbish: Universal Jobmatch to be scrapped


Leaked documents from the Department for Work and Pensions have shown that Universal Jobmatch is set to be scrapped – not only because it is full of fake and repeat job entries but also because it is too expensive.

But the government is bound to its contract for another two years and is unlikely to try to release itself until the agreement (with a company called, appropriately, Monster) comes up for renewal.

The plans have been revealed by The Guardian, after the documents were passed to the paper from an unnamed source.

It seems there was no mention of the adverts for illegal jobs such as sex work; perhaps the particular civil servants who wrote these reports don’t look at that kind of material on the internet!

The leak follows revelations that some job postings “enticed jobseekers to spend money needlessly – for example on fake criminal records checks – or were a means of harvesting personal information for identity fraud”.

According to Wikipedia, the site was developed by Monster at a cost of over £17 million and has annual running charges of £6 million. The Guardian states that Monster wanted an extra £975,000 to clear UJM of fraudulent employment adverts.

What is not clear is whether jobsworth Jobcentre staff will continue demanding that jobseekers use the site.

They’ll have a big job on their hands – convincing anyone that it is still workable.

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The questions that Sunday Politics WON’T ask Iain Duncan Smith


Like it or not, politics in the UK is far more nuanced today than it has been at any time in the last 100 years. How can it be anything else? All the main political parties are trying to occupy the same, narrow, centre-right ground.

Even so, one man has emerged as the pantomime villain of British politics: Iain Duncan Smith.

ConservativeHome readers regularly vote him into the top slot as the most popular cabinet minister – but it seems that anyone who has ever had dealings with his Department for Work and Pensions has the exact opposite opinion of him. He has been nicknamed IDS, but this blog calls him RTU instead – it stands for ‘Returned To Unit’, a military term for serving soldiers who have failed in officer training and have been returned in disgrace to their original unit (the implication being that his claim of a glittering military career is about as accurate as his claims to have been educated at the University of Perugia and Dunchurch College of Management).

Here at Vox Political, we believe that this man’s tenure at the DWP will go down in history as one of the greatest disasters of British political history – not just recent history, but for all time. It is our opinion that his benefit-cutting policies have done more to accelerate the impoverishment of hard-working British people than the worst recession in the last century could ever have done by itself.

We believe the assessment regime for sickness and disability benefits, over which he has presided, has resulted in so many deaths that it could be considered the worst genocide this country has faced since the Harrowing of the North, almost 1,000 years ago.

That will be his legacy.

On Sunday, he will appear on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show to answer your questions about his work. The show’s Facebook page has invited readers to submit their own questions and this seems an appropriate moment to highlight some of those that have been submitted – but are never likely to be aired; RTU is far too vain to allow hyper-critical questioning to burst his bubble.

Here is our choice of just some questions he won’t be answering:

“Why [has he] decided to cover up the number of suicides due to [his] benefit cuts?” “Why is he killing the elderly and the disabled?” “Does he have a figure (number of deaths) before he accepts a policy might not be working?”

“Universal Jobmatch, Universal Credit, WCA reforms, PIP; are there any policies and projects he has tried to implement that haven’t been a massive shambolic waste of money, causing distress and sanctions to so many people?”

“Would he like to comment on the huge amount of people wrongly sanctioned, and would he like to explain why whistleblowers from the JCP have admitted there are sanction targets?”

“Ask him if he believes a comparison can be drawn between the government’s persecution of the sick, disabled and mentally ill and the ‘Action T4’ instigated by the Nazis in 1939. I am sure the tow-the-line BBC will give him sight of the questions before he gets on the show so he will have time to look it up.”

“People are now waiting months for their appeals to be heard and the meantime their benefits are stopped. What does he expect them to live on? Why [are] he and his Department pursuing this deliberate war against some of our most poor and vulnerable people?”

“Could he comment on the massive amount of money written off due to failures with the Universal Credit?”

“Why are we paying private companies to test disabled and sick people when one phone call to their consultant or GP would provide all relevant details they need?”

“[Does] he have any intention of putting his money where his mouth is, [living] on £53/week, and how does he square that with the £39 on expenses he claimed for breakfast? Half a million people signed the call for him to do so.”

“Why are full time carers who look after loved ones only paid £59.75 a week? Less than JSA, indeed less than any other benefit! they save the tax payers millions, and yet have still been hammered by the changes in housing benefit, council tax benefit and of course the hated bedroom tax.”

“Ask him about the Universal Jobsearch website and the fake jobs on the site. As a jobseeker, this site need[s] better monitoring.”

“Ask him if the bedroom tax was really just a deceitful way to remove all social housing and force people into private rentals for the rich to claim housing benefits paid to claimants.”

“Does he think that paying subsidies to supermarkets and other private companies via welfare benefits because they do not pay well enough is what government should be doing?”

Some of the questioners address Mr… Smith directly:

“Why do you keep testing people with incurable progressive illnesses? Once found unfit to work, [they] never will get any better so to retest is stressful, cruel, and not needed.”

“Why are you telling Jobcentre Plus staff to get ESA claimants and JSA claimants to declare themselves self-employed, then reeling them in with the promise of an extra £20 per week? Is this why the unemployment rate fell last quarter?”

“You say you want the sick off what you call the scrap heap but with few jobs out there, do you mean off the scrap heap into the destitute gutter?”

“Do you feel remotely guilty for the lives you’ve ruined? the lies you’ve told? The dead people on your hands? Do you feel any shame at all that you’ve done all this and more? Do you sleep well at night knowing there are people who can’t feed their children because of you?”

“As a committed Roman Catholic, how does your conscience deal with you supporting and advantaging privileged millionaires while you personally and systematically further impoverish the poor and disadvantaged?”

“Does he feel ashamed to have caused so much suffering, because he flipping well should!”

There were many more questions that were not appropriate for repetition.

To see what he does have to say for himself, tune in to Sunday Politics on BBC1, starting at 11am on March 9 (which is, as you might have guessed, Sunday).

Just don’t get your hopes up.

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Private company given contract to harass the long-term sick

The pretext: These are the figures showing the amount of working time lost to companies in the UK because of illness. Remember that these figures have halved in the last decade.

The pretext: These are the figures showing the estimated amount of long-term illness in the UK per year. Remember that these figures have halved in the last decade.

The Department for Work and Pensions is setting up a new “service” offering “advice” to people who are off work with an illness for more than four weeks.

No reference is made to improving people’s health.

It should also be noted that sickness absence in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, and has halved over the past decade.

The announcement was made on the BBC News website shortly after midnight. Nothing has appeared on the Government’s own website so it seems the Corporation has gone back to being Westminster’s poodle again – breaking news for the government in order to give spin doctors time to assess the reaction and then write a press release that is more acceptable to the public.

The Health and Work Service will be a privately-run operation covering England, Wales and Scotland, offering “non-compulsory” medical assessments and “treatment plans”. This is reminiscent of the way Universal Jobmatch was introduced to jobseekers as a “non-compulsory” service – which many thousands of people have been bullied and harassed into joining.

The scheme will allow employers or GPs to refer employees for a “work-focused occupational health assessment”, according to the BBC report. So this means the employee has no say in whether to go on the scheme – it is down to bosses and doctors. You are invited to consider whether this represents another great step forward in the Conservative Party’s claims to be crusading for patient choice.

The story says workers will be allowed to refuse assessment or to follow any course of action that is recommended but, again, we have the example of Universal Jobmatch.

The “assessment” is meant to identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their GP and their employer, showing how that person can be “helped” back more quickly.

One is forced to question the efficacy of such a system, if faced with illnesses or diseases that must receive medical treatment.

You don’t talk someone better – the huge number of people who have died while going through the DWP’s Employment and Support Allowance sickness denial machine has proved that.

The government has made its aim in setting up the new scheme perfectly clear, saying employers will “save money” by having fewer staff off sick – possibly saving companies up to £70 million a year in reduced sickness pay and related costs.

The DWP says people will return to work earlier. This seems like a pie-in-the-sky aspiration, as illness does not go away in accordance with a timetable. This means the Department’s other claims – that there will be a reduction in lost working days and increased economic output – are also pipe dreams.

It is far more likely that sick people will be forced back to work before they are better – leading to an increased chance that illnesses will spread among workforces, there will be more lost working days and lowered economic output.

The Trades Union Congress, while supporting schemes that could help people back into work, agreed (with me) that this one creates a danger that people will be forced back to work before they are well.

Finally, any company involved in the scheme should be aware that it is unlikely to make a profit from it. Look at the effect on other firms of involvement with DWP schemes: Welfare-to-work provider A4e has reported a pre-tax loss of £11.5 million in the year to March 31, 2013 – up from a £2.1 million loss the year before. Turnover dropped from £194 million to £167 million.

So now we can say very clearly to all private companies:

Working for the Coalition government doesn’t pay.

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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.

Coalition policy on sex: A return to the bad old (VERY old) days?

Government-approved sex industry: A "gentleman's" club - possibly as Conservative MPs understand them. Indeed, some sitting members may have posed for this very portrait.

Government-approved sex industry: A “gentleman’s” club – possibly as Conservative MPs understand them. Indeed, some sitting members may have posed for this very portrait. Picture: As attributed.

We seem to be returning to the days when our so-called betters dictated to us that the mere sight of a lady’s ankle was enough to inflame the blood and led to lewd, lecherous and scandalous behaviour – before the hypocritical old nobs headed off to the “gentlemen’s” club for an appointment with ‘Lady Lola’ or some similarly-named professional whose main talent was wrapping her own ankles around her ears.

We know that David Cameron wants to inflict a so-called ‘Pervert Database’ on us, in which anyone wishing to view indecent/pornographic images has to register that intention publicly.

We also know that this attitude is hypocritical, if only because he won’t apply the same censorious mentality to, say, Page 3 of The Sun in case it upsets Rupert Murdoch – and Cameron knows he can’t win a general election if Murdoch isn’t on-side.

Now we can see that, even while the government cracks down on internet pornography, it is actively promoting live sex work (in the flesh, as it were) by advertising jobs in the sex industry on its Universal Jobmatch website. Jobseekers can be sanctioned if they fail to use this site, so it seems likely there is a high chance they will be exposed to this sort of thing.

So it seems the government wants to force porn addicts away from indulging their obsession in the comfort of their own home and into “very professional and discreet” clubs. Could there possibly be a money incentive in this?

To make these clubs enticing, the government’s jobsearch site is advertising for female “table top” dancers who need a “good sense of rhythm”.

According to Iain Duncan Smith, Universal Jobmatch is used for five million jobsearches every day (caveat: it’s a LieDS statistic and you can’t even trust him to tell you where he got his education).

Cameron’s stated aim is to protect children but there is nothing to stop people under 18 from applying for the jobs. It is even possible that Job Centre Plus staff may try to force teenagers into them, with the threat of benefit sanctions if they do not acquiesce.

Cameron’s claim is that internet porn features “vile images that pollute minds and cause crime”. It’s most likely a fair comment (this writer can’t claim to have been polluted in that way).

But suppose he’s right; statistically speaking, it’s undoubtedly possible that some of the people who look at online porn may go on to commit crimes – possibly sex crimes.

Suppose these people, unable to look at their filth online, instead attend one of the clubs advertising for “very well groomed” table top dancers. They’re likely to have a frustrating night, with real, naked bodies only inches away from them for as long as they can stand it, and no (legal) outlet for the urges this may create in them.

The club closes; they get turned out onto the street, possibly on their own, possibly with friends. What are these potentially-criminal porn addicts likely to do if they see a lone woman, possibly a dancer from the club, with nobody nearby to help her if she gets into trouble?

I don’t know.

Government ploy claims Universal Jobmatch helps social mobility – why can’t employers help?


Here’s a fascinating press release that arrived yesterday. It seems to be trying to discourage people from helping friends and family into work through ‘word of mouth’ recruitment, in favour of – try not to laugh – Universal Jobmatch!

It seems the latest wheeze is to say that ‘word of mouth’ hinders social mobility – whereas Jobmatch, as we all know, tries to funnel jobseekers into any available work, no matter how inappropriate. It allows the government to sanction jobseekers who fail to apply for jobs they view.

Oh yes, and there’s also the matter of identity theft; none of the ’employers’ advertising on Jobmatch are vetted by the government, and many have been found to be criminal organisations who want jobseekers’ personal details for illicit purposes. Make no mistake – this is a dangerous system.

That’s not the worst of it, though – the press release misrepresents the information, which in fact shows that employers should be doing much more to help social mobility, by advertising all the jobs they have to offer and providing more and better training opportunities. These are glossed over, in order to put pressure on the jobseeker.

Here’s the text of the release. Let’s go through it together:

“Social mobility and economic growth hindered by word of mouth recruitment

“As the government’s new social mobility ‘tzar’, James Caan, calls on parents not to automatically help their child into a job or work experience, figures published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) show that word of mouth is now the most common recruitment method.” Doesn’t that mean it’s the most successful? Why is James Caan trying to stop people from using a tried and proven way of getting jobs? And, has anyone heard of this ‘Employment and Skills’ commission before?

Assistant Director at UKCES, Moira McKerracher, said: “Although it’s probably unrealistic to expect people to stop helping their children, Mr Caan raises an important point. Our research shows that the most common way for people to get a job is now word of mouth. That might be cheap, but it’s got a lot of disadvantages. It relies on people having social and professional networks – a ‘grapevine’ – which young people often don’t have. When they do, it’s often through their parents. And it narrows down the potential pool of talent for employers, who could be missing out on some fantastic staff.” Okay, a lot of this seems reasonable, but doesn’t it mean that other ways of getting work have been closed off?

“Using services like Universal Jobmatch, advertising in the local paper, online and using social media or recruitment agencies can be very cost-effective ways of ensuring employers get access to the widest possible pool of talent, and young people are given a fair chance of a job.” Here’s where it all falls apart. Putting a discredited mess like Jobmatch at the top of the list casts a deadly shadow over the others. And aren’t the social media and recruitment agencies just another form of the networking that was being discouraged a couple of paragraphs ago?

“Scaling the Youth Employment Challenge, published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, notes that word of mouth is now the most common way of getting a job, with 29 per cent of employers using it to recruit compared to 24 per cent two years ago. There has been a corresponding drop in the number of employers formally advertising vacancies.” If the preceding paragraph sounded the death knell for this release’s credibility, that passage set the alarm bells ringing. Aren’t employers under a statutory obligation to advertise job vacancies? I may be wrong but this suggests that it is employers who are causing the problem, not jobseekers.

“It also finds that the major reason employers reject job applications from young people is because they lack experience, yet only one in four (27 per cent) actually offer work experience.” Yes – so it is the employers causing the problem. Why is this not flagged up, rather than the efforts of good parents and friends, trying to help people out?

“The report also finds that even young people with a job are frequently under-employed, with one in five wanting to work more hours. A disproportionate amount of youth employment is in low-skill, low-pay jobs with little training and few opportunities for progression. It calls on employers to do more to help young people into work – for example, by providing work experience, mentoring, apprenticeships, traineeships and entry-level jobs.” Again, all of these are issues for employers, not jobseekers. Why not get on their case, rather than bothering the unemployed over matters they cannot influence?

“The UK Commission for Employment and Skills is a publicly funded, industry-led organisation providing strategic leadership on skills and employment issues in the four home nations of the UK.” Oh – that’s why. It’s a mouthpiece for employers to justify their behaviour.

This press release went out to newspapers and other media outlets across the UK and, knowing the media as I do, I’m sure many of them will have just picked it up and dropped it into a space without even stopping to think about whether the information is correct. That’s how the government gets away with planting misinformation in public perception – reporters are overworked and don’t have time to consider the implications of what they’re publishing.

And readers want to trust news providers. This is why the BBC must be criticised for its distortion of NHS facts and figures – it should not be a propaganda arm of the Coalition government.

It’s time to question what you’re being told.

Getting the PIP: concerns about the DLA replacement

Is anybody else concerned about aspects of the DWP’s replacement for Disability Living Allowance?

It seems to me that some parts of it are deeply questionable.

Firstly: The fact that you have to phone up for a claim form. The person on the other end of the 0800 number will ask “general” questions – including very specific details of your bank account. What? Your bank account? That’s right. They want your bank details before anything else happens.

Now this makes me extremely suspicious. We’ve only just had the furore over Universal Jobmatch, the DWP website that jobseekers are being coerced into using, where any bogus ‘company’ can put on an advert and demand enough details to commit identity theft – now the same government organisation wants the bank details of disabled people! We don’t know who’s answering the phone – is it a trustworthy government employee or a subcontractor? Knowing the Coalition government as well as we do, there’s no reason to give them any trust at all.

Next: The form will go to a health professional working for the company Capita (in Wales) or our old sparring-partner Atos in other parts of the UK. They may decide a claimant’s entitlement straight away, but most will be asked to attend a face-to-face interview. It is possible that home visits may take place if the need presents itself. Attendance with a friend, relative, partner, health professional or similar is encouraged. All evidence will be reviewed and a report will be sent to the Department for Work and Pensions to make a decision. The health professional will not make any recommendations at all – a DWP case manager will review the evidence and make a decision.

Do we believe that? Could it be a reaction to the revelation last summer that DWP officers were rubber-stamping recommendations from Atos assessors about Employment and Support Allowance claimants? Is the DWP trying to – as it were – head us off at the pass? I’m not ready to believe this and I can’t recommend that anyone else should either.

Finally, as part of the ongoing process, questions and replies about PIP will be posted on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page of the DWP’s PIP website, www.dwp.gov.uk/pip – which is fine, if you’re a disabled person with access to the Internet. Many parts of Wales are still broadband “not-spots”, and I’m sure that goes for parts of the other UK countries also. What do people do if they live there? Suffer in ignorance?

Are you affected by this? What do you think? According to the DWP, “the general feeling is that PIP is outdated”. Do you agree? If not, why do you think the department has made that claim?

Here’s a little more information about PIP, and the process of conversion from DLA to the new system:

On April 8, 2013, PIP replaces DLA. There are similarities – PIP maintains links to passported benefits where possible, and there are special rules for claimants who are terminally ill. The differences are that claimants must have still have their problem nine months after they apply; there will be planned interventions and an early reconsideration process.

From April 2013, new claims for PIP will be taken in the northeast and parts of northwest England; it won’t affect other regions until June.

From October 2013, claimants on fixed period awards that are coming up for renewal will be reassessed, along with young people coming up to age 16, and indefinite awards with a change of circumstances. Nobody else will be reassessed until October 2015.

For those with fluctuating conditions, the form will provide an opportunity to explain them (I have no information on how that will work).

Claimants can have help completing the form, and reports from health professionals such as occupational therapists and doctors may be added to it.

If a claim is disallowed or reduced, they will phone on three separate dates, at three separate times, to explain the decision. There are concerns that claimants with particular issues such as mental health problems might not understand.