This guide assumes that you are not already on the Work Programme and not been referred to it.
Firstly, if you can spend 10 minutes or so of your time feel free to read this really important article: Understanding Jobseekers Allowance. Despite the name, its not about telling you what Jobseekers Allowance is… we all know that but understanding the concepts behind the law applicable to Jobseekers Allowance claimants and Jobcentre Plus authority. Once you have this understanding everything else makes more sense, however, you may proceed without reading it.
Down to business…. ideally you need to read this after your Jobcentre Plus adviser has hinted that you will be placed on to the Work Programme soon, or is arranging an appointment for you to be referred.
(1) Refuse to sign the modified Jobseekers Agreement (JSAg).
You have every right to decline changes you are not happy about. If a dispute arises (whether or not they are threatening benefit sanctions) insist that the Jobseekers Agreement is sent to an ajudicator for a decision to be made. These are now indeed a role of a decision maker… but as decision makers are typically associated with benefit sanctions, using “decision maker” in your sentence only encourages the Employment Officer to make a threat about benefit sanctions. We can assure you they cannot sanction you for this.
Why refuse to sign the modified Jobseekers Agreement? Simple, apparently the Work Programme is mandatory (we wont get involved in this for this article but browse this website to find out why) so why does Jobcentre Plus want your permission? Especially after all they have (or will soon) send so much of your personal information (including where applicable sensitive personal data) to a third party without your consent!!
The answer is very simple. They need as much information as possible as “evidence” to enforce their authority. But its mandatory so why do they need to prove your consent? Well we will let you work that out for yourself. As a Government department all decisions must be fair and “just”, and they risk judicial reviews at every turn which could damage their authority by forcing a change in law. So they must prove that you understand the law (or atleast agree so much to have an identical understanding as the unnamed decision maker posing as Secretary of State), that you are giving your consent (volunteering as opposed to being forced to undertake a “mandatory” activity), and that you know the consequences (benefit sanctions!!).
Of course this doesn’t really have too much binding as protection of say a judicial review, but its gold dust for benefit sanctions. They will automatically accept any sanction doubt thrown their way, however, if you are to stand a good chance of appealing the sanction decision, you must not consent – and you must not consent through the most important agreement for Jobseekers Allowance… the Jobseekers Agreement!!
Make your reason for refusal to be that you are happy with the existing Jobseekers Agreement and feel it is adequate. You can always “cycle your claim” pre-Work Programme if you are advised you are to be placed on it soon (say a few weeks time), simply sign off and do a rapid reclaim in 2-3 days time, keep in mind that you will lose a couple of days money and also you might notice delay in payment of your benefit (pre-sign off and post sign off). This might force them to check you JSAg when you got to your first interview… its normally valid for 3 months before it needs to be changed – this gives good reason to prevent it being changed later in a few weeks for the Work Programme.
As silly as it sounds, regardless of the Rule of Law, to stand a greater chance of punishment (or in some cases… any) it has to be proven that the person has some (even if a basic one) understanding of the law, and that he (or her) knew what he was doing was wrong or illegal. In criminal law, this all relates to mens rea (“guilty mind”) and the associated actus reus (“guilty act”). It is said anact doesn’t make someone guilty of a crime unless the mind is guilty too. This principle extends through the world in common-law jurisdictions.
Back to administrative law, such as the law used behind benefit sanctions, the principle is somewhat relied on, not that such person is deemed to be guilty of a criminal act, as quite simply any violation of their jobseeker conditions etc. isn’t a criminal matter, but somewhat a defacto standard if-you-like on what can withstand the typical risk of a judicial review, and of course a significant chance of a successful appeal. Regardless that you are told about a scheme or act that is “mandatory”, it cannot really be implied you have even a basic understanding that it is mandatory unless you give your express consent to the contrary, such as:
- A signature to show you have received a letter to mandate you
- A Jobseekers Agreement (with appropriate wording) – what we are talking about above
- Action Plans at the provider and other documents requiring your signature
- Possibly, you turning up to appointments implying acceptance
This is never clean cut because a provider can play dirty tricks, such as forging a signature or claiming a “FTA” (failure to attend) if refusing to sign. An “FTA” would be difficult to prove if you never signed a previous Action Plan (and not took a copy of it also) as you could simply counter an FTA by saying you never got such appointment to attend; however, the provider has powers to send a letter to force you to attend with or without your consent… be it you receive it, got lost in post or never been sent.
(2) Refuse to sign the data protection waiver
As previously advised, refuse to sign the “optional” data protection waivers. Make it clear you do not consent to your data being shared. Allow them to question your reasons but dont be bullied to change your mind. As soon as you refuse (remember without the consent its less likely they can get a bonus, and it harms their job security… but its not your responsibility to keep them in a job, they have a job, you dont!) they might mark your name… so if you give the consent its a greater chance you will receive a benefit sanction doubt at a later date.
(3) Refuse to provide details to the provider
Instead they will ask you to confirm or deny details they obtained from Jobcentre Plus… do not agree to this. The ICO requires personal information to be correct and up-to-date, hence they ask – and to make sure its correct so they can contact you. Wait, you didn’t consent for Jobcentre Plus to share your information with the provider which you gave for the purposes of claiming benefits… not misc services. If you either correct information or confirm, you are giving your consent! (Of course they keep a copy of the initial information!)
Do not give spoof details either, they don’t need your contact details to raise a sanction doubt… they only need your name or NI. If you are to get a sanction doubt (for another reason) after giving fake details its unlikely you will be able to have a successful appeal.
(4) Refuse to sign anything (including the fire register – put your name in it though and times in and out) including Action Plans
Whether or not you choose to not turn up to any appointments made is your decision.
It is not mandatory for you to:
- Attend appointments with an advisor
- Agree to or sign an Action Plan (or similar/other documents)
- Undergo any tests or assessments
- Provide any information to the provider
To quote Section 17A (the main law):
(2) Regulations under this section may, in particular, require participants to undertake work, or work-related activity, during any prescribed period with a view to improving their prospects of obtaining employment.
This means simply:
- Undertake full participation in work placements
- Participate in any “work-related” activity: simply anything that might (even in a million years) improve your chances of securing employment (i.e. training modules); but not adviser appointments
(5) Participate in all “work-related” activities
It will be lame and the same stuff that you might have done on New Deal before the dawn of the new millennium… but this is “work-related” activity. Of course the scheme actually isn’t mandatory but can only be challenged by judicial review – unless you want 6 months of benefit sanctions!? We thought not.
So anything constituting training or to improve your employment prospects:
- CV and/or Application Form writing
- Interview skills
- Confidence building / building paper bridges (bring a lighter lol – you will be used to burning bridges by now…)
- Job interviews
(6) Compromise by disclaimer
Template as follows (copy and paste into Word/Open office):-
I do not consent for my personal information and sensitive personal data to be collected, stored or processed by [provider name]. I have never gave my consent for Jobcentre Plus to share my personal information and to share my personal information without my prior knowledge, against the Data Protection Act, to [provider name]. I will not sign any data protection waiver to enforce this illegal act. I will not confirm, add or deny information already illegal held that might conform a method of consent for it to be held. I request the information is destroyed immediately.
I shall not attend adviser meetings, undergo any testing or assessment, sign any Action Plans or other documents, complete a timesheet or surrender a job log to [provider name] (although I will continue to maintain one to give to Jobcentre Plus for job search evidence) as I have not consented for my data to be used and abused – and there is nothing making me legally obliged to do so.
One of the jobseeking conditions is to undertake 3 steps to look for work each week, I undertake job search on the internet, in the job paper, and in recruitment agency shop windows, and apply for multiple vacancies each week that exceeds this legal requirement. I am a proactive jobseeker and am content with attending any module that will improve my chances of employment by [provider name] as they might instruct me to attend, that is reasonable, agreed in advance and spaced out one per week enabling me the opportunity to put what I may have learnt into practice.