Originally posted on Ipswich Unemployed Action.:
Hundreds of thousands of people hunting for work on a government jobs website may have been chasing posts that never existed, ministers admit.
Nearly 60% of employment advertised on the Universal Jobmatch scheme could have been placed by bogus firms – some of which have been demanding upfront fees from applicants for fake background checks.
A third of a million job vacancies advertised on the government’s official website for jobseekers are suspected of being bogus, falsely promoted or against the rules, documents seen by the Guardian show.Frank Field, a Labour MP and former minister, has established that officials are concerned about more than 350,000 vacancies promoted on the Universal Jobmatch site, which must be used by unemployed people to apply for jobs in order to claim benefits. This amounts to around half of the jobs currently being advertised on the flagship website that Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said would “revolutionise” the process of looking for work.
Reports the Guardian.
Field started asking questions about the website after discovering that some of his constituents had been scammed out of money by false employers, who asked for bank details upfront and cash for criminal record checks before disappearing.
He believes the whole website is “bedevilled with fraud” and “out of control”, and is calling on Duncan Smith to “get a grip” on the contract, which is managed independently by a private recruiter called Monster.
In a letter to Field, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that more than 352,659 job adverts might be in breach of the Universal Jobmatch website’s terms and conditions. These rules specify that employers must advertise the position fairly and comply with the law, including advertising an “actual job or work opportunity”, not using premium rate phone numbers, paying at least the minimum wage and not costing the applicant any money to start.
In a letter dated 27 February, DWP officials are contacting the employers promoting these opportunities to “seek evidence of compliance” within the next five days or face the termination of their accounts. The DWP said this “exercise” would take around three weeks.
It comes after an investigation by Channel 4 News estimated last month that more than 11,000 positions currently advertised on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website may not actually exist, ranging from vacancies for sous chefs to dry-cleaners. In its early days, the website was ridiculed for advertising joke jobs for MI5 hitmen, mafia couriers and even prostitutes.
Field claims that many jobseekers have been robbed of large sums of money by a sham company that advertised fake jobs and actually conducted bogus interviews inside a jobcentre. He said the victims were informed that their new employer was a nonentity and that they had been ripped off on arrival at what they expected to be their first day of work.
“The heart of the government’s welfare reform programme is bedevilled with fraud and, in its current state, it is out of control,” he said. “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.”
Field has now asked the National Audit Office to investigate the scale of job fraud as a “matter of urgency”.
The Mirror today.
Employment Minister Esther McVey revealed 179 businesses advertising 350,000 of the 600,000 places on offer through the website are being investigated.
Labour MP Frank Field, who unearthed the figures, said some jobseekers were being asked to pay £65 for criminal checks.
They later found out the firm did not exist.
Mr Field said: “Something rotten appears to be taking hold of Jobcentre Plus where the Government is allowing fraudsters into the heart of its welfare operations.
“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.”
BBC (an Hour ago).
The government’s Universal Jobmatch website “is bedevilled with fraud and, in its current state, it is out of control”, a senior Labour MP has said.
Frank Field said some jobseekers had been tricked into paying £65 each for bogus criminal background checks while applying for jobs that did not exist.
More than 350,000 job adverts on the website might breach the website’s rules in some way, he added.
But the government said the “vast majority” of vacancies were genuine.
Mr Field said the Department for Work and Pensions had written to him admitting that 179 employer accounts advertising 352,569 jobs might potentially be in breach of the website’s terms and conditions, which dictate that adverts must describe an “actual job or work opportunity” in an accurate way.
The advertisements must be for jobs paying at least the minimum wage, must not be duplicates and must not include premium-rate phone numbers, the website continues.
‘Revolutionary’ But Mr Field said: “Anyone can place an advertisement on the site in the space of five minutes by ticking a few boxes.Continue reading the main story
We crack down on those who don’t play by the rules”
Department for Work and Pensions spokesman
“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 a press release, he said he had received evidence from constituents “suggesting jobseekers have been robbed of large sums of money by a sham company that was able to advertise fake jobs on Universal Jobmatch and stage what turned out to be bogus job interviews under a false identity, actually in Jobcentre Plus itself.
“Jobseekers who applied for jobs with the sham company were required, as part of the application process, to provide bank details and an upfront payment of £65 for criminal background checks.
“However, upon arrival at what they expected to be their first day of work, the victims were informed that their new employer was a non-entity and that they had been ripped off.”
Mr Field said the Department for Work and Pensions had told him that the 179 accounts were being “contacted to seek evidence of compliance”.
But he demanded an urgent investigation from the National Audit Office of the scale of fraud on the website.
A spokesman for the department said: “Universal Jobmatch revolutionises the way jobseekers look for work and it has already helped many jobseekers find the jobs they want through the millions of vacancies posted since 2012.
“The truth is that the vast majority of employers post genuine jobs, and we crack down on those who don’t play by the rules.
“We also regularly monitor the site and remove jobs that don’t meet our rules, such as duplicate advertisements.”
What a bloody shambles!