Universal Jobmatch: Jobseeker Directions being issued.

In its most recent update on the DWP’s heavily criticised Universal Jobmatch service, the Public and Commercial Services Union revealed that, under current regulations, Jobcentre Plus cannot force job seekers to sign up to this service by issuing a Jobseeker Direction:

Jobseeker Directions and Mandatory Use of UJ

PCS was aware that, despite assurances otherwise from the UJ project of DWP, management in some jobcentre districts were instructing advisers to tell claimants that UJ is mandatory and access must given to the DWP.

As a result of legal challenges and negative press attention, DWP have revised the guidance on UJ to make it clear that this cannot be done. The UJ Jobmatch toolkit chapter 3, paragraph 50, states: “You cannot issue a Jobseeker’s Direction to either require a claimant to create a profile and CV in Universal Jobmatch or to mandate a claimant to give us access to their account – this is their decision not ours.” Paragraph 52 also states that “We cannot specify to a JSA claimant how they provide us with records of their jobsearch activity and Universal Jobmatch will not change this.”

PCS is awaiting clarification from DWP management on the status of the many Jobseeker Directions that were incorrectly issued to claimants before the guidance was clarified. PCS members should contact their local representative to challenge any instruction to inform claimants that the use of UJ or access to it is mandatory.

However, in the last few hours, the Ministry has been provided with clear evidence that this guidance may be being ignored by some Jobcentres, with claimants being directed to sign up to Universal Jobmatch or risk losing their benefit for a minimum of four weeks.

The letter we’ve obtained was issued on 21 February 2013 during a scheduled interview with Jobcentre adviser, with the claimant being told that that new rules had come into effect on 18 February and that signing up to Universal Jobmatch was now mandatory. The letter also instructs the claimant to attend a second interview with their adviser, set for this week, and ‘present their details’ to their adviser as proof that they’ve signed up to the system.

As yet, more than a week on from the date on which this supposed new guidance came into effect, we’ve seen nothing from PCS to indicate that any new guidance or regulations have been issued to its members, which seems just a little suspicious.

Universal Jobmatch, which was developed for the DWP by Monster Worldwide Inc. has been plagued by reports of bogus job advertisements being posted to the site, including adverts for an MI6 assassin and for couriers willing to work for ‘CosaNostra Holdings’. Adverts have also appeared on the system for online porn sites including at least one which claimed to be seeking female ‘presenters’ for and ‘Internet babe chat’ site.

The system has also been criticised for its lax security. It’s privacy policy states that it will try to restrict access to its CV database to authorised user but cannot offer any guarantees before going on to suggest that users avoid including any sensitive personal information in their CV, such as their racial/ethic origin, political or philosophical/religious beliefs, sexual orientation, past criminal convictions or any national identity number, ie a passport, driving licence or national insurance number. This section of the policy concludes with a far from reassuring disclaimer:

However, if your CV does contain this type of information, then you agree that it is at your own risk. We cannot control employer access to this type of information from our database.

Charming… and sure enough, a Channel 4 investigation in December 2012 found that hackers were able to scam the system and quickly harvest personal information from desperate jobseekers just by posting a plausible looking fake advert. From the description given by Channel 4, I’d be hard pressed to call this a hack. It looks much more like a straightforward phishing scam and even if DWP/Monster do tighten up their checks on advertisers, it’s not all difficult to see how a determined fraudster who was willing to drop a few quid on renting a cheap office and a phone line might easily work the system and walk away with a lot of personal information in a very short space of time.

Anyway, back to the letter and I should note the claimant who supplied it has asked that we redact any information contained in tit that could be used to identify them, including the details of the Jobcentre they attend and the date/time of their second interview. We are, of course, only too happy to comply.

JCPDirection

Until it can be confirmed as to whether either the regulations or DWP guidance on Universal Jobmatch has been altered, the best source of information on job seeker’s rights in relation to Universal Jobmatch is still this one, and if you do get handed a direction then I’d suggest you query it and ask to see the updated information in the Universal Jobsearch Jobmatch Toolkit, if that information even exists.

  • Chris Naden

    Interesting. I have nothing documentary, but this accords with my experience at Cofa Court, Coventry; Tile Hill, however, got it right.

  • http://infoism.co.uk/blog Ian

    There are so many areas of this coercion into benefits claimants and job seekers that should concern each and everyone one of us, and that’s aside from the more general concerns about benefit reform. I’m hoping that the raised awareness of this issue may result in some pressure applied to the government to rethink this whole shoddy process.

    I recently wrote about the issues around universal credit here:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/20/iain-duncan-smith-digital-divide

    And I have just stumbled across another interesting article on the security aspect here:

    http://speye.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/getting-benefit-and-have-a-facebook-account-oh-dear/

    I dread to think what the impact of these reforms will be…and, to be quite honest, I think a lot of people have absolutely no idea that these changes are happening and what they actually mean for many out of work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sun.lies.3 Sun Lies

    The link given in this article has been updated:

    http://consent.me.uk/2013/02/26/mandatory/

    “Looks like DWP scheduled maintenance is to make changes to make it mandatory from Monday March 4th 2013, most probably by Jobcentre Advisers issuing a Jobseeker’s Direction, like this one…”