UK: Jobless to be remotely monitored by Government

Benefit claimants will have their online job applications remotely monitored by the Government to see whether they are making serious attempts to find work.

Mr Duncan Smith said the website will mean Job Centre advisers are able to target their help at jobseekers with problems

By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent11:33AM GMT 20 Dec 2012

From the beginning of next year, the unemployed will have to look for work through the Coalition's new Universal Jobmatch website or potentially risk losing their benefits.

The website will scan the CVs of benefit claimants and automatically match them up with job openings that suit their skills.

It will also allow employers to search for new workers among the unemployed and send messages inviting them to interviews.

However, the activities of benefit claimants can also be tracked using devices known as "cookies", so their Job Centre advisers can know how many searches they have been doing, suggest potential jobs and see whether they are turning down viable opportunities.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said the scheme would "revolutionise" the process of looking for work.

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.

But job advisers are able to impose sanctions such as compulsory work placements or ultimately losing benefits if they feel the unemployed are not searching hard enough.

Mr Duncan Smith said: “If you choose not to take a job that matches you, then the adviser will look at your reasons, and if the adviser thinks ‘actually, these are pretty specious reasons’, he may call you in and say ‘I think you really need to be applying for these jobs’.”

He said the website will mean Job Centre advisers are able to target their help at jobseekers with problems, while letting capable candidates get on with their searches.

"For the very small percentage that have a real problem - maybe they have absolutely no skills - we want them in front of the adviser," he said.

"And if they're just not playing ball, they will be in front of the adviser. These are little trip wires, if we think they're not applying for it. There are lots of things the adviser can do.”

The Work and Pensions Secretary said jobseekers can be hauled in every day if advisers "think they're not up to the activity” they are meant to be doing.

“We have some interesting programmes like mandatory work activity if the [advisers] think they're having trouble getting out of bed, if they're not playing the game.”

Around 690,000 people have signed up to it so far, with more than half giving their Government job adviser access to their profile and activities.

The website has already signed up 370,000 employers and jobseekers are conducting about five million searches a day.

Mr Duncan Smith also confirmed his department is looking at introducing a ‘welfare card’, instead of some benefits, for drug addicts. This could only be used to purchase certain items, such as food and other essentials, stopping them from spending their benefits on drugs.

“I’ve been looking at this process to figure out whether it’s feasible, how would it work, how does it match with legal obligations, so we’ve already been examining this," he told the BBC's World at One. "There’s nothing at the moment on plans, but I genuinely think there are some areas where we might want to think about.

“You know, somebody who has a history of real drug addiction, giving people cash sometimes can actually lead to further problems.”


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