Hoban gets his own law WRONG on jobseeker search proof

Last month the SKWAWKBOX showed that Mark Hoban, Minister of State for Work and Pensions – already infamous for his dismissive, arrogant ‘cut and paste’ responses even to MPs of his own party – was unable to get even such a fundamental fact as the basic amount of Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) for single over-25s right.

I also showed last week how new ‘conditionality’ rules put jobseekers at the mercy of Jobcentre Plus (JCP) advisers, regardless of how unfair or ill-informed they might be – without any right of appeal.

Well, Hoban appears to be on a roll – this time on an even more important matter than the basic JSA amount: the law.

In response to concerns raised by a Labour MP regarding the DWP’s ‘Universal Jobmatch’ (UJM) system, Hoban sent the following letter:


Taking a the haughty tone of a lecturer educating an ignorant student, Hoban advises that

It may be helpful if I explain in more detail the role that Universal Jobmatch plays in the conditions that apply to receiving benefit.

He then goes on to ‘explain’ that, under new rules, JCP advisers have the right to require some jobseekers to register for UJM and to use the system for job applications as evidence that they are looking for work – and that failure to do so can result in sanction (immediate cessation) of benefit.

All clear enough – and all absolutely incorrect.

A DWP insider tells me what the law really states:

When the Jobseeker agrees how they are going to look for work there is a check box agreeing to use UJM. If the Jobseeker allows this to be ticked (which most do due to ignorance and innocence), then this provides the jurisdiction for the Adviser to issue a Jobseeker Direction to mandate the creation of an on-line profile.

It is all very sneaky. The Jobseeker for obvious reasons will not be provided with information about other better job sites they could create a profile with.

The law says you may be required to create an online profile in the singular and does not specify creating a government Gateway, which they cannot force anyone to do.

To paraphrase: there is no legal power for JCP advisers to require anyone to use UJM at all. If they can basically con jobseekers into ticking the ‘will use UJM’ box, then they have the power to require it, because consent has been given (although even this would be doubtful in legal terms if it is not informed consent).

And if jobseekers refuse to use UJM, they are legally perfectly entitled to do so. They may be required to use some kind of online jobsearch platform – but it does not have to be UJM.

Hoban then adds a level of hubristic insensitivity that is remarkable even for him:



To paraphrase again:

We can tell people to do pretty much whatever we wish – but they always have the option of choosing not to receive any money if they don’t want to comply.

Topped off, like icing on the cake, with a no-less astonishing piece of wilful naivety. Is anyone really stupid enough to think that ‘The Decision Making and Appeals Process’ ‘ensures‘ that requirements are applied fairly?

We’ve already seen that the new regulations have placed potentially ignorant or biased JCP advisers in a position of absolute power over jobseekers who have no right of appeal against even an unlawful decision.

And if even their Minister doesn’t understand the law and the rules, what chance do even wellmeaning JCP advisers have of treating jobseekers fairly and legally?

This staggering lack of clarity and understanding about the legality of any requirement to use UJM – routinely and deceitfully forced on hundreds of thousands of jobseekers and which can and does lead to deprivation of benefits – means that there is no realistic doubt that tens and probably hundreds of thousands of sanctions have been imposed on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

No wonder sanction numbers have risen so incredibly that the government has still not released the latest figures more than 3 months after they were due.


  1. “We can tell people to do pretty much whatever we wish – but they always have the option of choosing not to receive any
    money if they don’t want to comply.”

    That’s more than Mark Hoban’s ignorance. That’s the government’s ENTIRE defence against the charge that workfare is forced labour. And it’s one that’s already been held to be false by Strasbourg, which has repeatedly found that whilst the ECHR places no obligation on governments to provide a benefits system, any benefits system they do provide must be run in accordance with the ECHR. If government wishes to evade those requirements, its choices are simple – either withdraw from the ECHR, or axe the benefits system. And clearly, the vast power over the non-privileged classes that the benefits system gives them – in particular, the fear and consequent social compliance that it inspires – is far too valuable to give up; leaving the ECHR is by far the more advantageous course of action for these sociopaths. Forget all the talk of fraud – it’s basically a solved problem, and in any case, the tougher a system becomes, the easier fraud becomes relative to claiming the benefit honestly. None of what’s happened to the benefit system in the last decade has been about stamping out fraud. It’s ALL been about terror. The most effective terrorist organisation in this country – in the world – is the DWP.

    Which is why anyone who really cares about empowerment, redistribution or anything else needs to support an unconditional basic income. It comes down to this: either you believe that striking abject terror and enforced helplessness into the hearts of millions of people desperately trying to do whatever they can to cling onto their last threads is acceptable, or you have a conscience. There really is no middle ground here.

    Stamp out terrorism. Demand a basic income.

  2. I wasn’t even aware of this box. I was advised to set up an account and i did. But I apply for jobs tha5 have an apply button. It’s easy that way to do your two a week.

  3. Completely off topic but I haven’t got your email (and not asking either), In May you did some stuff on the “Nudge Unit”. I have come across this from the University of Liege Law School, who seem to be holding an Academic Meeting in December 2013 on “Nudging in Europe: What can EU Law learn from Behavioural Sciences?” http://eutopialaw.com/ posted on 23rd August. They seem to have swallowed the guff whole coming out of DC’s tame little unit.
    Quote: “In the UK, through a process of rapid, iterative experimentation (“Test, Learn, Adapt”), the Behavioural Insights Team has successfully identified and tested interventions that will further advance priorities of the British government, while saving the government at least £1 billion within the next five years”: Unquote. Thought, if you have not already seen it you might be interested.
    Cheers, Dave E

  4. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/169236/response/427465/attach/3/response%20IR640.pdf

    3. DWP considers that it is GENERALLY REASONABLE to require Jobseekers Allowance claimants to create a Universal Jobmatch profile and to upload a public CV on the UJ service, by issuing a Jobseeker’s Direction to the claimant under section 19A(2) of the Jobseekers Act
    1995, even though this requires the claimant to provide their e-mail address (in order to register for a Government Gateway account and when creating a UJ profile). Before issuing such a Direction to a claimant, their adviser must assess whether the Direction is reasonable, taking the claimant’s circumstances into account. The Jobseeker’s Direction MUST BE GIVEN WITH A VIEW TO ASSISTING THE CLAIMANT to find employment or IMPROVING THEIR chances of doing so.

    It is unreasonable to require Jobseekers to use UJM if it does not support their search for work and jobs can be found more quickly and easily elsewhere or, for those people due to their particular circumstances cannot to use the system.

    Promotion of UJM is DWP policy. There is no jurisdiction in place to enforce it without a claimant’s consent.

    A contract also becomes void if undue influence is applied for example, the Adviser stating UJM is compulsory for everyone.

    The Claimant Commitment only allows the Jobseeker 7 days to consider the contract and there is no opportunity for an impartial review at any stage or to complain, which is unlawful under:

    1. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
    Article 15
    Article 41
    Article 43

    2. The Guarantee of Individual Rights

      1. Also proves that the vast majority of Jobseekers are agreeing to create a UJM account within their Jobseekers Agreement!

    1. PCS on sanction targets.
      It might have been a bit easier if they weren’t so late to the party,. Getting worried now they see all the ‘conditionality’ effecting even their own members?

      “However, PCS still receives factual information that, even where staff can provide evidence that their claimants are meeting conditionality or have good off-flow rate, or even where they are making sanction referrals, PIPs are put in place because not enough referrals have been made.”

      1. Great info. Do you have anything for earlier months? Be interesting to see if that escalation is an extended pattern.

      2. Haven’t come across any more UJM mandated figures, – I try to keep a rough idea of the trends of various figures. To me it actually looks like UJM has destroyed the value of JCP as a viable source of vacancies! Well done DWP.

        From Wednesday’s PAC sinking flagship UC meeting:

        “We have deliberately decided to make sure that every jobcentre in the country is using the claimant commitment, even on JSA, so that when the universal credit benefit payment turns up, it is not unfamiliar to them, and I am not expecting them to do 35 hours’ work without the sanctions being right. That is important.”
        R.D. on page 50.

        So it appears they still think having 3-4million unemployed showering employers with applications, emails, CVs and phonecalls for 7 hours each and every day will somehow create wealth or jobs.

      1. If we cannot bring about the necessary changes there will be no chance of justice. Claimants will become trapped inside the jaws of DWP and enmeshed in all manner of fears on a daily basis!

  5. Very Interesting! The criteria of ‘good reason’ is open to interpretation. It should be noted DWP Decision Makers are NOT independent or experienced in on-line job seeking. Most Advisers are not competent with on-line job sites either!

    The majority of Jobseekers struggle to present all the relevant facts and should seek advice before submitting evidence when a doubt is raised or with making an appeal.

    In my view almost all sanction decisions should be appealed.

    1. ‘good reason’

      The fact that UJM is totally useless and insecure (anyone can pretend to be an employer) compared with almost all other jobsites, should be enough ‘good reason’.

      Someone else trying it on:
      ‘Track’ as in keeping track of the victims.

      “In my view almost all sanction decisions should be appealed.”

      Of course, but they shouldn’t be sanctioned in the first place, all the evidence (inc. the dwp’s) shows that sanctions don’t work. They obviously make jobsearching more difficult, and it’s not as if these days employers are falling over themselves to employ the hungry, homeless. Sanctions don’t save anything, they cost a fortune to administer. While there’s 30+ unemployed per entry-level vacancy, it’s economic madness.

      1. I agree!

        There are other products on the market. No doubt DWP will be procuring something similar in due course to ensure Jobseekers are spending 35hrs a week looking for work. From memory, this type of product was mentioned in one of the DWP Select Committee verbal evidence sessions (The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed Welfare system).

        Best way is to advise JCP you cannot afford broadband any longer and see what happens when 2.5m people want to use the JCP machines, which by the way they cannot force you to use! Currently circa 1.5 IAD’s per 1000 Jobseekers!

  6. I’m still unclear on this whole UJM thing. Whether they can make you register an account and/or whether they can force you to concede access to that account, by ticking the box. It is my understanding that the latter is the part that they cannot force. I’m rather reluctant to take as fact what a ‘dwp insider’ says, though they make sense and that I would like to agree.

    The real problem though is that, rightly or wrongly, the DWP has the power to call into question the claiom of anyone that disagrees with them. Essentially if you refuse, the adviser can simply refer your case to a decision maker even if your refusal isn’t against the rules. Why this is a problem is because your benefits are stopped (guilt is presumed over innocence) while it is referred and while you wait for the decision maker – who can take as long as they like – to review the case.

    That is the real problem.

    1. Rest assured, DWP cannot force you to do anything that is irrational, unreasonable, unlawful or will not support you into work.

      I do understand that all Jobseekers are in a vulnerable position and do not wish to risk their benefits. This story highlights the unfairness of Jobcentre practices and procedures.

      I have been providing advice and support to Jobseekers for many years and I am horrified by what goes on in Jobcentres these days.

  7. “Rest assured, DWP cannot force you to do anything that is irrational, unreasonable, unlawful or will not support you into work. ”

    To be precise Mary the DWP “cannot LEGALLY force you to do anything that is irrational, unreasonable, unlawful or will not support you into work.”

    In practice, as ghost whistler points out, they use and abuse their overwhelming power over the claimant knowing that the threat of loss of JSA, even if only temporary, is usually enough to enforce compliance even when the claimant is right. It’s an incredible abuse of power and one, prior to legal aid being withdrawn for this type of thing, might have been challenged. I hold out no hope of that happening anytime soon now. The introduction of the Claimant Commitment waters down the claimants rights to appeal even further making things even worse.

    1. And the PCS, who could do so much in this regard, does nothing. Serwotka talks the talk, but where’s the action?

      This is the problem: a massive programme of inaction. We have the so called People’s Assembly – doing what? Talking!

    2. You are right! It is down to each case being challenged and the Jobseeker knowing where to turn.

      I wish I could hand hold every Jobseeker. It so damn frustrating!

      I even had an ex-military man advise me just yesterday, that he feels like a criminal each time he visits the Jobcentre!

      “1.2 Our role as a Department is to support people into work, where they are capable of working, and helping them to stay in work. We aim to maintain our excellent track record of providing good quality advice
      and support through the face to face services of Jobcentres, through
      our visiting service, and through our partnership with third parties.”

      ” 1.6 To continue to increase our effectiveness and value for money:
      • Managers and advisors will have the freedom and flexibility to
      decide for themselves how best to achieve the best possible
      outcomes for their customers. In this way, we will put the
      customer at the centre of our business and support frontline staff
      to build and use their skills and experience.”

      Allegedly, the customer is at the heart of JCP business and good quality advice and support is provided!

  8. Some good reasons why you not have to use UJM:


    And, If a Jobseeker can prove that UJM is not supporting them with their job search activity.

    All the vacancies within UJM aggregate to other sites. The only time you ever have to use UJM is if you need to use the ‘Apply’ facility. The majority of employers post the application process within the vacancy and you would rarely, if ever need to create a permanent account.

  9. Use of UJM: Oral hearing for permission to proceed to a Judicial Review takes place 30/9/13

  10. can they immoral wankers sanction me for not seeking work, when i have the proof through emails, letters and my ujm that i have been looking. this is my 5th sanction since 29th sept 2012. iv showed them but its not enough despite all requirments in the agreement been met. i recorded my last apointment with me showing the advisor my side of the agreement was met he shruged his shoulders sayes thats up to the DM and smiled over to his pal. how do i get this sorted without me going to jail and that prick eating through a straw.

  11. Reblogged this on The SKWAWKBOX Blog and commented:

    This week’s article on the illegality of Jobseeker’s Agreements and Claimant Commitments imposed on benefit claimants appears to have caught the attention of the public, and will hopefully catch the eye of the press so that people don’t fall for the con tricks used to deprive them of benefits.
    So I thought it would be worthwhile reblogging this post, which shows that (wilful) ignorance and misrepresentation of the law to penalise benefit claimants is nothing new in the DWP. Please share.

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