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UK.gov stalks jobless online to axe work refuseniks' benefits

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Unemployed Brits who don't look hard enough for work through the government's new Universal Jobmatch website could end up losing their benefits from next year.

Jobseekers already need to prove to officials they are applying for plenty of roles in order to claim their government handouts, but this new system takes the process one step further. And there are fears scammers could use the site to snaffle sensitive information.

Universal Jobmatch has been around since last month, but the Department of Works and Pensions is pushing the site onto Brits now before its use becomes mandatory in early 2013.

The website is like any other job-search site except that Jobcentre advisors will be able to track jobseekers and make sure they're applying for enough jobs and not turning work down when they're suitable for them, Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said.

If unemployed Brits aren't searching for many jobs or are turning down offered jobs without a good reason, the advisor can decide to sanction them by sticking them in compulsory work placements or ultimately cutting off their benefits.

"In the existing system, jobseekers are expected to apply for reasonable jobs and take one up unless there's a good reason not to," a DWP spokesman reasoned to The Reg. "This just automates that."

Jobless folk can agree to let their advisor track them with cookies on the website and suggest jobs for them that match the skills on their uploaded CVs - although they can't be forced to give the advisor access as it's illegal to track someone online without their permission under EU law.

"We don't see why you wouldn't want to [let advisors track you]," sniffed the DWP spokesman. "It's clearly an advantage. But that aspect of it is not mandatory."

Anyone who doesn't have internet access at home will be able to get onto the Jobmatch site in Jobcentres, libraries and other public buildings that are online. The spokesman couldn't imagine anyone not being au fait with the web, "everyone is using online access now", but if jobseekers are stuck, advisors can help them at a Jobcentre.

A Channel 4 News investigation also accused the site of being a "scammer's paradise" if fake employers could join the site to grab people's personal details.

The DWP spokesman said the department takes security very seriously and there were "proper checks, all sorts of checks" on people signing up to the site.

"The safeguard systems have blocked 6,000 [bogus] jobs on the site and 27 employers," he said.

The site was set up by recruitment firm Monster, which is being paid $16.7m for its services.

There are already 375,000 companies signed up to the website, along with 690,000 jobseekers, according to the DWP, of which 400,000 have voluntarily given account access to the advisors. There are more than five million searches every working day.

The number of officially unemployed in Britain able to work and actively looking for jobs, was at 2.51m in the three months to November, according to the Office for National Statistics. ®

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