A couple of weeks ago, I drew attention to how DWP minister Mark Hoban was unable, even in a formal response to an MP, to get his facts straight on the law regarding what the DWP’s Jobcentre Plus (JCP) is legally allowed to force – or ‘mandate’ – jobseekers to do.
Hoban thought that the DWP and its agents have the right to issue a ‘jobseeker’s direction’ (JSD) – an instruction that results in a sanction (suspension of benefits) if the jobseeker doesn’t comply – to make jobseekers use the highly-flawed and controversial Universal Jobmatch (UJM) system to look for jobs. They do not.
But it’s not just Mark Hoban’s ignorance. JCP advisers continue to break the law by imposing claimant commitments (CC) – the precursor to a JSD – that are completely illegal – and the SKWAWKBOX has documentary evidence.
I’ve received a copy, from a JCP insider, of one such CC:
This CC is illegal on (at least) two counts. Firstly, it requires the jobseeker to access UJM when, as my article a couple of weeks ago already showed, the DWP has no legal right to do so.
Secondly, it states that no ‘written jobsearch’ is now acceptable and mandates that evidence of jobsearch activity must be provided by either giving the JCP access to his/her UJM account or by providing a print-out of the ‘application history’.
But the DWP knows this is untrue. Not only do they know it to be untrue, but they have stated in their own guidance to their own employees that it is untrue.
A recent Freedom of Information Act response by the DWP outlined at length the guidance issued to JCP advisers on what they can and cannot do, and in particular what they can and cannot mandate. Point 82 of this guidance, under a heading of ‘Actively Seeking Employment’, addresses the issue of jobsearch activity:
82. We cannot specify to a JSA claimant how they provide us with records of their jobsearch activity and Universal Jobmatch will not change this – it is not therefore possible to require JSA claimants to give DWP access to their Universal Jobmatch account.
Condemned by its own words – the DWP is fully aware that it has no right to demand any particular form of evidence that claimants have been looking for work. JCP advisers can require evidence – but not specify what form that evidence takes.
Yet this bandit department continues to ride roughshod over even the semblance of lawfulness. And as we saw last month, it has now formalised this lawlessness by decreeing that claimants have no right of appeal if a JCP adviser decides to illegally impose such conditions, even if they result in sanctions which are therefore also illegal.
Claimants can ask for a review by another adviser, but if the second adviser is equally ill-informed or reckless the decision – still illegal – can be upheld and enforced, and sanctions can be immediately applied for a failure to comply, even though claimants would be absolutely within their rights to do so, even according to the official guidance.
I’m tempted to call the DWP a maverick department. But that would be inaccurate. A maverick disregards the opinion and conventions of his/her peers, but the banditry of the DWP is entirely in line with the malevolence of the rest of the government toward any whom it considers lacking, or simply vulnerable to attack.