Are jobcentres bullying claimants illegally?

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.

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About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
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9 Responses to Are jobcentres bullying claimants illegally?

  1. Ben Owen says:

    It’s very important that this person show their jobcentre advisor the following result of an FOI request, and take it to appeal.

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/140693/response/347764/attach/html/3/FOI%204776%20Response%20PDF.pdf.html

    Dated the 8th Jan:

    “It is not currently mandatory for jobseekers to use the Universal Jobmatch service but it has
    always been our intention to mandate some JSA claimants to register with Universal Jobmatch
    and upload a CV so that they can make full use of the service.

    We intend to require those claimants to do this under a Jobseeker’s Direction, when some
    changes have been made to the service to fully support this.”

    • Thanks for that (and sorry your comment took so long to get approved, my filter thought it was spam). The person who left that comment didn’t leave any contact details, but hopefully they’ll see this, or similar advice somewhere else.

  2. Darroch says:

    Universal Jobmatch is currently voluntary and cannot be mandated by a Jobseeker’s Direction nor can claimants be given a sanction for refusing to register for UJM, create a profile, or upload a CV if they don’t want to. This is straight from the horse’s (DWP’s) mouth via a Freedom of Information Request, viz.,

    “In response to the question you raise above we are aware that a small number of claimants may already have received a Jobseeker’s Direction in relation to Universal Jobmatch. However the use of Universal Jobmatch is currently voluntary and you can choose whether or not to create a profile and CV within Universal Jobmatch without a benefit sanction being imposed. If you do not wish to follow the direction or if you have already followed the direction but do not want to continue using the service please mention this at your next appointment with Jobcentre Plus. ”

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/139741/response/348938/attach/html/3/4675%20response%20pdf.pdf.html

    Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants and others DO NOT NEED TO USE OR HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH UNIVERSAL JOBMATCH. Just say, no. You cannot be sanctioned, lose any money, or be punished.

  3. george says:

    Its time to stand up to this government and their bully boy tactics, don’t take this crap lying down as they would like.If they get their way the whole country will be working in a ware house, a big one for the rest of the world and the posh boys getting richer by the Milli second.
    Take a look at this http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/improving-public-service/reports-and-consultations/reports/parliamentary/small-mistakes,-big-consequences/15

    The DWP and work programme providers can be punished too! if they step out of line.

  4. guy fawkes says:

    I actually thought exactly the same thing regarding a fund for those that have been sanctioned , especially since it first happened to me in 2001 and every year until 2008, but we really need to appeal to rock stars or actors to support such an appeal, those with money who are not part of the establishment and rebellious like us. We should rebel more against govt. diktats and jumping through hoops for govt and it’s lackeys in related agencies, we should not be answerable to claiming benefit that is rightfully ours, via national insurance contributions.

  5. liz says:

    Perhaps the next Euromillions millionaire might set up a fund.

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