Johnny Void’s consistently excellent coverage of welfare issues continues with a new article on Universal Jobmatch and the importance of not consenting to being monitored by the DWP. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the article is not the article itself, but one of the comments, which is worth quoting in full:
“My husband is being forced into work related activity, and work programs despite the fact that he is on ESA on the work related activity group. He’s also been told if he doesn’t allow cookies and to tick that box he WILL be sanctioned, and what’s worse is, they are telling the truth, my husband has been sanctioned over Christmas. Contacted our local MP, and got a very nasty phone call from the DWP saying they will look into it but are dissapointed in him for contacting our local MP before them (we had called DWP dozens of time about this) in a very horrible tone.
They are a nasty piece of work!!!
P.S. Still being sanctioned until he ticks that box… living on hardship is proving too much, he will probably sign next week.”
I don’t know the legality of sanctioning people for not signing up to use the website, and I suspect that the law may well side with the DWP there. But forcing people to tick the box allowing the DWP to spy on them definitely sounds like a breach of the law. To quote the Daily Telegraph: “The tracking element of the programme will not be compulsory as monitoring people’s behaviour online without their consent would not be allowed under EU law.” I strongly suspect that using sanctions – essentially, the threat of starvation and homelessness – to force people into “consenting” to give up their legal rights may also be a breach of EU law, and so there’d be good grounds for any claimants faced with these threats to sue the DWP. If you’ve been faced with these threats – specifically over the Universal Jobmatch monitoring issue, since I suspect most other sanctions are perfectly legal – let me know in the comments on this post, and we can start discussing ways to make a fuss about it.
More broadly, I can’t help thinking that an important step in the development of a claimants’ movement would be some kind of a communal bank that could support people who’ve been sanctioned, in exactly the same way that regular unions offer strike pay to members who’re having their income cut off. However, since this’d cost quite a lot of money, and claimants tend to have even less spare money than most workers, the question of where the funds would come from is quite a difficult one to answer. Something to think about, anyway.