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New jobseeker site branded ‘Orwellian’ by Salford unemployment manager amid personal data concerns

By Charlie Bennett

Universal Jobmatch had a quiet introduction, but a vocal few are already warning Greater Manchester jobseekers to read the fine print before joining Whitehall’s new website.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched the site to replace the old job-matching directory in late November, but JSA claimants now have to register a ‘Government Gateway’ account in order to apply for vacancies.

In an MM-conducted survey, 62% of claimants leaving a Jobcentre Plus were not yet aware that the website exists, while 28% had not yet registered.

Chris Oliver, an Openshaw resident and claimant, said: “They’ve not mentioned it to me but they will if you ask about it. I think the Jobcentre knows what its doing; my friend got a job in Thailand recently and she only has an English GCSE.”

Only one surveyed Mancunian said he ‘had to’ join the new website.

This is comparatively good news following an announcement issued by the DWP Group of the Public and Commercial Services Union earlier this week, which said that some JobCentre advisors are ‘pressured’ to hide the website’s non-mandatory nature.

Helen Flanagan, DWP Group Vice President, told MM: “Claimants could be issued with a ‘direction’ which would make it mandatory but only if the individual’s circumstances have been taken into account and it is absolutely necessary.

“Advisers are being put under pressure to take inappropriate action, PCS is providing our members with the information to ensure claimants are aware of their rights and treated fairly.”

When choosing to apply for jobs, Jobmatch’s services allow employers and others to see customers’ personal information and to contact them.

Under the ‘Your privacy rights’ page, the Universal Jobmatch site informs: “If you use a CV to apply for a job online, the employer will then be able to view your contact information. They can then use it to contact you about your application.”

It adds they ‘cannot guarantee’ that people without permission won’t gain access to the database.

Alec McFadden, the manager of Salford Unemployment Community Resource Centre, described the situation as ‘Orwellian’.

“It’s a disgrace, a total disgrace,” he said

“George Orwell wrote a book about this in 1948. It was how you control and monitor people in what was then called a two-way television system.

“What we’ve now got is computers. People have got to look for jobs that don’t exist!”

He refers to the Jobmatch’s vacancies, which have been picked up from other websites, such as cv-library.co.uk.

A number of the search results need updating as a visit to these other websites reveal that the listed vacancies can be up to three months old and no longer exist.

Mr McFadden added: “This government is sacking thousands and thousands of people.

“And then, people who have been sacked may get their benefits robbed because they can’t find real jobs. It’s a lunatic asylum.”

The website is also served by Monster, an American corporation famous for numerous leaks that resulted in the loss of millions of customers’ data to identity theft in August 2007.

Users with Government Gateway accounts must search for jobs for 20 hours a week, and are advised to not upload personal information, such as passport or bank accounts scans or a National Insurance number.

After Universal Credit, the streamlined single welfare benefit system, is introduced, users must be actively using the website for 35 hours each week.

Universal Credit pilot schemes will be introduced in Oldham, Wigan and Tameside in April, rolled out proper in October, and new claims for currently existing benefits will be phased out entirely by April 2014.

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Picture courtesy of jovike, with thanks.

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