DWP letter: Universal Jobmatch fake jobs issue is real

Wed, 26/03/2014 - 14:29 -- nick

The Department for Work and Pensions press office has today contacted UnemployedNet in response to an article we published on 6th March. This carried allegations made by Labour MP Frank Field that the government's Universal Jobmatch site was hosting fake jobs, duplicates and jobs that did not meet legal requirements, including not being for an "actual job or work opportunity", companies using premium rate phone numbers to make money, not paying the minimum wage and charging applicants to apply or start work.

The DWP told him that over 352,000 jobs on the system - more than half - were suspicious, and said it was writing to those companies giving them five days to clean up their acts under threat of their accounts being terminated.

The full text of the letter, which has also been published on Monster's website, is as follows:

"Joint letter from Neil Couling (Head of Jobcentre Plus) and Sal Iannuzzi (CEO, Monster)

The UK labour market is changing fast and so is the way people look for work. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recognised this when it embarked on the programme to deliver Universal Jobmatch.

Today, many jobs are only advertised on the internet. That's why we are doing everything we can to give those looking for work the chance to use online tools. It would be irresponsible not to respond to this cultural shift. This is about social inclusion, not just an IT system. The collaboration between the DWP and Monster led to the development of Universal Jobmatch as a powerful tool for successfully connecting people to jobs, and today it is delivering on that mission.

We firmly believe that Universal Jobmatch is the best way for the government to change how the unemployed find jobs. The website launches a public service into the digital age. No longer is finding a job about waiting for the weekly paper or a fortnightly trip to use a jobpoint; Universal Jobmatch lets people search for work from their home, handheld devices, local libraries, as well as the traditional Jobcentre. It allows employers to match jobseekers to their vacancies and gives our customers access to a greater number of opportunities than ever before, working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to find them a job. Universal Jobmatch puts all of our customers on an equal footing with everyone else seeking a new job in the UK.

Building a platform for a public employment service is not as simple as taking one off the shelf. The DWP needed to be very specific in its requirements for the site, striking a balance between easy, open access and protecting users. Introducing any system, especially in such a complex environment, is challenging. This is why the DWP and Monster are working closely together. We listen to feedback, have already made major improvements to the system and are committed to further refinement, if and when necessary.

Some of the concerns recently raised regarding the legitimacy of jobs on Universal Jobmatch, and even the future of the site itself, are based on misrepresentations which attempt to undermine its true success as a secure, and effective recruitment website. With millions of active jobseekers over the last year, those best placed to judge the system, our users, tell us it they like it and that it makes a real difference to how they look for work.

We would like to set the record straight on two key issues.

First, there have been allegations of widespread "rogue" employers posting "bogus" vacancies. Sadly, the existence of "rogue" employers is nothing new - they have been operating since Labour Exchanges were created in the early years of the last century. Indeed DWP identified and stopped 185 scams in 2011 and a further 145 in 2012 on its legacy job site, prior to the launch of Universal Jobmatch. We have well-established procedures to minimise this sort of activity, and the volume of such accounts is small. We advise all who use the site on how to stay safe on-line, to never reveal sensitive information which has no place in a recruitment process. But we are not complacent and we take all such incidents very seriously. In fact, the DWP and Monster have agreed upon new measures to remove questionable jobs to improve further the security of the service.

Secondly, like all internet job sites, we manage the issue of duplicate or inappropriate vacancies. Again, we take this seriously.  Whenever we have a doubt about the validity of a job offer we will intervene, suspend the vacancy and investigate. If an employer breaches our terms and conditions we remove their right to advertise. Our continuing removal of such employers or jobs demonstrates that our system of checks works.

Finally, there has been inaccurate speculation about the relationship of the DWP and Monster. Universal Jobmatch was delivered on budget and on time and we are working closely together to ensure its continuing success. Technology changes at pace and we will continue to exploit the opportunities this offers to support jobseekers into work.

The current contract between DWP and Monster runs until 2016, but the DWP - as with any large government procurement - will plan and consider all options for how it delivers the service in the future. But whatever that future is, Universal Jobmatch is here to stay, which will be of relief to the 500,000 employers and millions of people looking for a new job who rely on it every day."

'Setting the record straight' on key issues appears to mean admitting that they are true. While it is understood that not all scammers can be caught at source, the mandatory relationship between jobseekers and the site demands that far more scrutiny is applied to companies using Universal Jobmatch.

Those on Jobseeker's Allowance are forced to sign up and use the site as a condition of receiving the benefit, and some have been victims of scams through it, including of a fake company that advertised and actually interviewed people inside a jobcentre, stealing money from them for non-existent work.

This problem is likely to continue, with the government at risk of spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar.

The letter does not answer a key issue for all coalition reforms, namely how reducing the amount of funding available to implement them can allow them to work properly.

The Department for Work and Pension has shed around a quarter of its staff since 2010, and expertise appears to have disappeared, leading to lower service standards and less efficient scrutiny.

While the letter confirms that some company accounts were cancelled prior to the launch of Universal Jobmatch, the downward trend and lack of figures since the site came into being backs this up.

UnemployedNet is not against an accessible public job site in theory, one tailored to the needs of unemployed people without robbing them of confidence by forcing them to engage with it, but if it has the government seal of approval it must be managed to the highest possible standards.

Revealing the details of his investigation, Frank Field said: "The heart of the government's welfare reform programme is bedevilled with fraud and, in its current state, it is out of control.

"Anyone can place an advertisement on the site in the space of five minutes by ticking a few boxes. Ministers need to get a grip before more people fall victim to fraudsters preying on them with the helping hand of a major government department."

In its lack of answers to key questions the letter suggests this is still the case.

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