The experiences of one jobseeker in using Universal Jobmatch – a worrying sign for Universal Credit?

I recently wrote an article for The Guardian exploring some of the ramifications of Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to make the Universal Credit system online-only.  As I have demonstrated here many times, there remains a very real digital divide for many millions of people; a divide not simply in terms of a lack of access, but also in a lack of skills to make full use of the technology. Unsurprisingly, many of those of working age caught on the wrong side of the divide tend to be the poorest in our society.  As a result, the intention to push the social security system online led to some very serious concerns, which in turn led to my article for The Guardian.

Since writing that article, I have spoken to a number of jobseekers who have personally experienced this drive to force them to use government web portals in order to seek out employment.  Their experiences are worrying and underline the fears raised by so many about the impact of forcing jobseekers online.  So I thought, rather than just repeat my concerns borne out of my understanding of the impact of this system, I should just ask one of them if they would be willing to write about their experiences for this blog.  They agreed. The following underlines, in my view, that neither Universal Jobmatch, nor the Universal Credit System, is fit for purpose.  The government needs an urgent rethink of its policies towards jobseekers because the danger is that government policy will trap them in poverty, not help them back into employment.  I only hope that the Opposition wake-up and challenge the poverty trap being created by the Coalition.

Anyway, here is one jobseeker’s experience of the new systems introduced by the coalition government…

Do you want to know how easy it is to become unemployed, and fall into that delightful category so beloved of this government of “skiver”, and be tagged with all the implications of laziness and fecklessness that it implies? It’s simple: all it takes is for your employer to make some bad business decisions, and there you go – you and everyone you work with can become instantly unemployed. In my case, this was done within 2 days, and we were all out the (securely locked behind us, hope you carried out everything you needed already) door, with the joyous additional factor of being given no notice or redundancy pay. What do you mean, you have financial commitments dependent on that pay packet you were expecting this month? Well: tough luck, you’re a Skiver now. A New Skiver.

Trying to struggle through the numbing shock in order to leap into action to fill out endless forms and kick off various processes was horrendous, but the good thing is that I’m pretty well educated, and I have the skills that mean that although the whole experience has been traumatic, I’m fairly confident that I’ve given the right information to the right people, at the right time, and I have the skills to find the right places to look and apply for jobs.

Now, I registered as a Jobseeker using my laptop, and my home internet connection, and I printed out confirmation materials and other documents that I needed using my own printer/scanner. I was lucky: I could do this comfortably at home, but it was a demanding process in many ways, asking me for information I either had to dig out of my household file folders, or that I had to log on to other sites to get, like the details of my bank savings and current accounts. It’s not something I would have wanted to do with strangers around, or in a public space. But what are your options, when you aren’t lucky enough to have these facilities at home? You go to a library, and make use of the facilities there…if you have a library…and if they have public computers…and if you can get time on them…and if you can input the information needed within that time…and if you have the computer skills to be able to understand what’s being asked of you by the forms, and how to respond appropriately. That’s a lot of elements that need to come together, in order for you to be able to get online.

What about the people who don’t have computer skills?

There is a current assumption in government that absolutely everyone has a computer, an internet connection, and the skills to use these together to gain access to information. This year, Universal Credit will replace various benefits, and there’s an expectation that recipients will manage their information online. But from my experience of government websites, it’s just going to be a horrible, painful mess, and the people who’ll suffer are the ones who’re least able to cope: those without internet access, and those without computer skills. Like the man I overheard while in the Job Centre, telling his advisor that he can only get internet access at his girlfriend’s house. What happens if that relationship breaks down? What about the people who don’t have computer skills?

As for the government websites that are meant to be getting people into employment…oh my!  Universal Jobmatch is the official government website for Jobseekers. It’s useless. Utterly, utterly useless. To start with, you have to be able to log in. As I’m writing this, it’s spent 25 minutes NOT logging me in, and I’ve had to give up and leave it. Ok, that’s not a huge problem for me, sitting at home, but what if you’re using a computer that you only have limited time on? That’s 25 minutes that could have been put to better use, but instead has been wasted waiting for a clunky website to decide to let you log in.

…jobs are still advertised long after their closing date…

The biggest problems that I’ve found with the jobs being advertised on Universal Jobmatch is that jobs are still advertised (and the system is allowing you to use it to apply for them) long after their closing date, and the fact that the system is inviting Jobseekers to apply for jobs in an utterly inappropriate manner. For example, I found a relevant post, and did as it requested, and used the site to send the employers my CV. I heard nothing further, and when I checked the progress of the application a few days later, the job was marked mysteriously as “closed”. Soon after this, I found the same position newly advertised on the site of the employer, where it specifically stated that CVs would not be accepted, and their own application process must be completed. Universal Jobmatch was giving the completely wrong information, and if I hadn’t known to follow this up at the source, I’d have lost the chance to apply for that position.

The site also insists on sending me alerts for jobs that haven’t even a tenuous link with the categories I have marked as my interests (the suggestions of a telesales role or a care home assistant are my personal favourites, when I’m looking for information professional or social media work), yet when I log in to look at them, and it asks me why I’m not applying for them, there’s no option to say “because this is utterly irrelevant to my requirements, your system is awful”. I’m waiting to see how long it is before I get told off for not trying hard enough in their systems. It’s actually so bad that I refuse to use it if I don’t have to, but that’s because I have other, better job sites available to me to use. What about the people who’ve been told that they MUST use the site, and don’t have the skills to know where else to look, or how else to do things? The site is so bad it’s almost certainly losing people the chance of employment, rather than helping them to find it.

So, what’s the future for us New Skivers? Apparently, one where we’re fighting for space in a library, wedded to a computer, spending frustrating and pointless hours wrestling with the Universal Jobmatch site, wasting time trying to get into a site that we can use to apply for jobs that closed weeks ago, using a format that the potential employer won’t accept. That’s definitely going to help people move from Skivers to Strivers….right? And anyone who doesn’t think the Universal Credit and Universal Jobmatch are amazing must just be happy being a skiver, and they’re loving the decadent lifestyle that their £71.70 a week Jobseekers Allowance enables them to live on.


I have also been sent the following which I felt should be attached to the bottom of this post. It’s taken from a booklet called “Jobseekers Allowance: your responsibilities” and appears to be rather authoritarian in tone:


Note: you must tell us if you leave your home, even if only for a day.  Seems rather unnecessary to report on your whereabouts if out for the day…

Published by


Librarian and co-founder of a leading national library advocacy campaign, I have written articles on a range of professional issues for a number of publications including The Guardian, Information Today Europe, Library Journal and the Open Rights Group.

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  • sophie Lemesurier

    This entire exercise seem to be about forcing people out of their benefits, to save money so that they can use it for their own purposes, but the populace sadly seem unaware and buy the silly rethorics…

  • http://N/A Chafron

    I wrote to the Government myself just over 18 months ago asking them to help my SON financially to help him get his business back after having it ripped from underneath us because Coventry Leasing Ltd repossessed our Company Van with a load of furniture that belonged to a client and didn’t send us repossession letters or letters of arrears’ My son has 2 Daughters to keep and hasn’t worked for over 18 month’s he’s been on JSA AND HAS NOTHING and is awfully depressed , More to the point the Government stopped Legal Aid and his ex stopped him seeing his children and he’s now having to pay money he hasn’t got to fight for his children ,the whole system stinks and its disgraceful a scam artist can get away with wrecking your life and putting you in a state of hardship.

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  • Karl

    I have just experienced all of the above mentioned by infoism, It is a complete joke. I have been trying to log in to universal jobmatch since 9.30am and still I cant. I filled out the skill test with lifelong learning on the government gateway and it suggests that I join the forces or take up a care in the community role. I am 50 years old next year and have worked all my life, the last 25 years as a door systems engineer. My occupation is not listed on there site so they jobmatch to the next best thing. If I am not interested in what they have suggested I have to explain why!! My new claim meeting is tomorrow so I shall print this article and give it to them as I introduce myself.

  • dave

    He’s moaning about how hard it is to use universal jobmatch yet has the ability to write and upload a web article.

    • JCplus

      Dave, you need to go back to school and learn to read AND understand properly!

      Hope you join us soon at JobCentrePlus, show how clever you are…..

  • Cleo

    I have tried to advertise a job vacancy today on Universal Jobmatch and it truly is a disaster. It takes too long to post a job vacancy and also does not allow you to post it correctly as it does not specify enough occupations. Then once I went through the outrageous process and successfully posted the job the DWP emailed me to outline that as I have asked for 2 yrs+ experience, this is discriminating against certain age groups and have asked for written assurance with further information or sign a declaration to remove this from my job posting???????

  • ShadowDrakz

    I have been told that UJ is only short term meaning that because I have just came out of a job they expect me to get another one easily. The job I just came out of is the 2nd job I have had, it was 6 months and the one before it was a few years ago and lasted 2 months. Both jobs where never going to be long term as it was just until the work ran out and the Job centre just don’t care, they see that I have worked and assume it to enough for me to easily find a job. They want to spend as little time as possible seeing you but have issue when you can’t find a job, they are supposed to help us find work but all they do is look at what we find ourselves, tell you to keep at it or try harder and that is it until the next appointment. And the staff at their offices are just as bad, the Job centre just sees us all as jobless wastes of space when many of us could probably do their jobs better than they do now.

  • Kenny Chassar

    I was having an interview with my advisor recently and he was showing me the the merits of using UJ by typing in ‘no experience’ and then looking at what came up. The first job in this category was for a Technical Sales Manager at a rate of £50-£60 thousand a year and went on to list the qualifications and ‘experience’ needed for this job, and as I am looking in the £14-£16 thousand bracket and am certainly not sure what a Technical Sales Manager does, I said that I would not even consider applying for this job, to which he replied that I was being negitive, and then vindictvely announced that he would put me on to weekly signing for not having the right attitude along with several other veiled threats. The lesson being, be very wary about pulling these people up for their mistakes.

  • Sam Dunbar

    Considering there suppose to be closing down the jobsite in 2016 lol

  • Blackhat

    Similar to yourself, I have extensive IT experience. Including 15 years at Board level. I would have resigned immediately had my team let through a system similar to this one. It doesn’t even permit a Covering Letter and as you say all the roles can be found else where and easier.
    Unlike others, I have been permitted to use a printed excel sheet as my Job Search evidence, for past two years. When Challenged (as happened 3/4 times) I ask them for the Primary or Secondary Legislation that states I must use it. I am now being told that as part of Universal Credit Legislation (due this year), it will become mandatory. I really hope not as transferring the 100+ jobs I apply for weekly will be very tedious.

  • Fiona Gregory

    You would be ideal to help IDS with the Universal Credit then.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Me too. Man invented god in his own image, otherwise it would be a duck-billed platypuss or raccoon.

  • Fiona Gregory

    It is done by Japanese robots who can’t even read properly.

  • Fiona Gregory

    They do not train them properly, especially the girl with the pink hair who loves to start an argument where none is required.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Yes I know what you mean. I am 54 at the moment and it seems bosses just want the young ones because they are CHEAPER to employ.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Yes well that goes to show how very spiteful they can be. However, they are given targets to meet for sanctioning, and if they do not meet them, they do not get a teeny weeny bit of a pay rise.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Remember there are hundred of other sites, not just UJM. The Work Programme told me Indeed was a good one to use, but a quick Google search should inform you of others available.

  • Fiona Gregory

    They do not have the time to check your jobsearch properly. They only have about 7 mins for each customer otherwise they will not see everyone on the list.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Tell them to use Virgin Media internet. It is fast and only goes down about twice a year.

  • Fiona Gregory

    If you learn to touch type it will be a doddle. You will have spare time to make a cuppa and watch Jezzer as well.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Tried that. It was of no use whatsoever.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Do not tick the box allowing them to look at your UJM. It clearly states in UJM handbook that it is up to the customer to give them the information about their job search as they see fit, and UJM will not change this. Someone printed it out on an early reply on this page.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Get a mobile with internet access, just use for important things. He did write a book, it was called The Trial.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Write down everything you do. If they do not believe you, all they have to do is Google the reference number and the job should come up. The onus is on them. You are innocent until proved guilty.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Go on Adzuna site and they will rate your CV for you, tell you how you can improve it and then tell you what pay you should get (which is vastly overestimated) but it is another string to your bow.

    They send out emails late at night of new vacancies you may care to apply for. It is useful but none of them are perfect. Use as many as you can.

  • Fiona Gregory

    Yes and they are all using Windows 98 or something very outdated.

  • Fiona Gregory

    I hate to inform you, but nowadays, even call centre jobs require a university degree. At least they do for posh John Lewis.

  • Fiona Gregory

    There might be 1.5 Million jobs in the whole UK but there are 3 million people looking for them. Bearing in mind, one cannot put a quart into a pint pot, this means that inevitably some people will be out of work.

    Also bear in mind that not everyone has a car or can drive, and some people have limited vision, although can still see, like me. Add to that, bosses hardly ever employ anyone over 50, and you will see that someone has got to pay for our daily bread. I cannot ask god because he does not exist, therefore I have to ask the DWP, until I retire at the old age of 67 – whereas before it was 60. Keep on moving the goal posts, and the will not have any goalkeepers left.