Signing on? Don’t let the Job Centre rob you.
This leaflet tells you how to get a workable jobseekers agreement (or claimant commitment), sustain your claim for as long as you need it, and resist the job centre’s efforts to make you destitute and prevent you from looking for work.
Staff at this job centre have been told to use illegal targets to stop the benefits of a minimum number of people every week. From the day you claim Jobseekers Allowance, they are your enemies. They will use any excuse, or none, to sanction (stop) your Jobseekers Allowance. They do this by setting you up with a jobseekers agreement, or claimant commitment, that is too difficult to sustain, and that will trip you up sooner or later. If you ‘fail’ on one occasion, you will have your money stopped for four weeks. For a second ‘failure’, they will stop your money for 16 weeks. Your money can be stopped for up to three years.
Don’t let them do it. If you are about to start a claim for JSA, go into the job centre with your own plan of what you intend to do to look for work, that you know is workable – read this leaflet for ideas. If you already have a jobseekers agreement, you can have it changed. Tell the person you see when you sign on what you want changed. They don’t make the final decision about it. If they won’t change your jobseekers agreement, tell them to refer it to a decision maker. They can’t refuse this. The decision maker has to make a decision in writing within 14 days to say whether they will make the change or not. If not, you can appeal.
In a jobseekers agreement, or claimant commitment, you have to set out what you will do to look for work. But if job centre staff try to put any of the following actions in your agreement, they are setting you up to have your benefits stopped:
* They tell you to apply for a minimum number of jobs every week – how does anybody know how many jobs will come up? It will vary each week, from none to a dozen or more. It is good enough to say you will apply for every vacancy you find that you are capable of doing.
* They tell you that you have to look in the same newspapers, or at the same websites, on every day of the week, or more than once every day. They’re waiting for you to miss one out one day so that they can stop your money. Websites and newspapers do not always update their job vacancies every day, and vacancies are always advertised for at least a week. You won’t miss anything if you look at each source of vacancies two or three times per week. Besides that, you need to have time to apply for the vacancies you do find! And time to attend any job interviews. Insist in putting in your agreement “I will apply for all the jobs I find that I can do”, and “I will attend all job interviews I am offered, and this will take priority above all other appointments.” This is necessary, because the job centre will sanction people for going to a job interview on the same day as they sign on, even if you tell them why you have to change your signing on time.
* They tell you that you have to set up an account on the DWP’s job vacancy website, Universal Jobmatch, and that you have to give the job centre staff access to your account, so they can monitor what jobs you apply for. On no account let them monitor you. Their own guidance, contained in the Universal Jobmatch Toolkit, paragraph 56, says they cannot direct you to give them access to your account; this is the customer’s decision, not theirs. You cannot be sanctioned for refusing, there is nothing they can do about it. Besides that, you can use Universal Jobmatch without logging in.
* The reason you should not let the jobcentre monitor your job searching activities is because there is a new regulation (regulation 9 of the Jobseekers regulations) which says that you have to spend 35 hours per week looking for work. This might be almost possible to do if there was full employment. But there is not. So, if you don’t let the jobcentre monitor independently what you do, they will have to take your word for how much time you have spent.
* Note: If you are looking after children or a disabled relative, you do voluntary work, you work part time, or you have physical or mental health problems, you can reduce the hours to as low as 17 per week. (Jobseekers regulation 12) The number of hours you do is up for discussion (or argument) with the job centre staff.
* They tell you to take a ridiculous number of steps each week to look for work. A step is any one of these types of action: looking in the newspaper’s job vacancies section; phoning an employer to get an application form; filling in the application form and sending it back; looking at a company website to see if they’re recruiting; phoning a previous employer to see if they’re taking on any new staff. Taking 10-12 steps each week is as much as you reasonably need to do, to have a good chance of finding work. If you are well organised, and think you will find a lot of jobs to apply for, you could agree to take a minimum of 20 steps. But if you’re asked to do more than that, they’re setting you up. You only have to miss one step out of 20 one week for them to have an excuse to stop your money.
* They tell you to register for Universal Jobmatch, or put your CV online, when they know you can’t use the internet, can’t read and write easily, if English is not your mother tongue, or you haven’t got access to the internet at home. Jobcentre staff see people with these limitations as easy targets for sanctions. If you’re in this position, don’t be intimidated. If they try to insist on directing you to do something you can’t, tell them to read paragraphs 57 to 60 of the Universal Jobmatch Toolkit guidance. If they still insist, you insist on it being referred to a decision maker. If they still won’t back down, you can both appeal and make a formal complaint.
* They tell you to go round a certain number of local employers every week to ask for work. –If you agree to this, you’ll have to insist on an end date because you will soon run out of employers to ask. But it is difficult for the job centre to monitor that you’re doing it.
* Always keep a written record of everything you do to look for work, and make sure it matches what you have agreed to do. Keeping a record is a legitimate requirement for you to keep getting Jobseekers Allowance.
For more information about resisting sanctions, and how to appeal, look at
Or contact your local claimant’s union, unemployed centre or anti cuts campaign.
- More thanks to our friends from Haringey (which incidentally is Andrew Coates’ original homeland).
NOTE (Ipswich Unemployed Action):
KEEPING A WRITTEN RECORD OF EVERYTHING THEY ASK YOU TO DO IS A VERY IMPORTANT.
We all have to present evidence of Job Search, and do a kind of ‘school assignment’ every time we sign on, so this should not be too difficult to do to cover what they ask from you..
Though personally it is a pain it is perhaps not a good idea, as some have indicated, to write,
“Went for job in Pencil Factory but I was not sharp enough” “Went for job in bakery but they didn’t give enough dough.”