While looking for reports of how the recent week of action against workfare had gone, I stumbled across a useful bit of information from the excellent Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty: in response to a Freedom of Information request, the Department for Work and Pensions have confirmed that “Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants are not required to apply for zero hours contract vacancies and they will not face sanctions for turning down the offer of a zero hours contract.”
Of course, as usual when dealing with the benefits maze, it’s worth being a bit wary: just because head office says something, there’s no guarantee that people on the ground will do the same, so if you’re worried your advisor may try and pressure you into zero hours work, it’d be worth printing the relevant DWP guidance off at a library to take with you.
While sharing useful advice for claimants, I thought I’d also take a moment to plug Universal Automation, the new application designed to sabotage the DWP’s plans for surveillance and control over claimants by applying for jobs automatically.
Finally, a word of encouragement: if you find the jobcentre’s instructions confusing, and a lot of people do, why not make a freedom of information request of your own? Given the way things are going, it can’t be long until someone tries to scrap this right by saying it could be helpful to terrorists, or that it’s too expensive to afford and we’ll have to pay massive fees if we want to find things out. At the moment, it’s still a free, accessible way of making the government reveal information that you can then share with other people, so we should make the most of it while we can. For instance, other people have asked about whether JSA is still paid while a disagreement about your jobseekers’ agreement goes to tribunal (it is still paid), and what happens after the end of a sanction, among other useful pieces of information. They may not respond – the DWP seem very shy about sharing their privacy impact assessment for Universal Jobmatch, for instance – but it’s worth a try. It’s always hard to get a straight answer out of the jobcentre, so the more information we can pry out of them the better.