back to article MPs blast dole-office-online plans

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) plans to get 80 per cent of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants transacting online by September 2013, but has no clear plan of how to achieve this, says the public accounts committee. In its report titled Reducing Costs in the Department for Work and Pensions (40-page/364KB PDF), the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are libraries the solution?

    Improve your knowledge and claim your benefit.

    Two birds, one stone.

    1. Colin Miller

      Until, in the name of savings, internet access is removed from libraries, as "everyone has it at home".

    2. Lone Gunman

      Except the councils are closing the libraries in their own cost cutting.

      Maybe the reason why only 17% of the applications are online is that people don't know they can apply online?

    3. graeme leggett Silver badge

      In part

      A good idea, but there might need to be an increase in the number of terminals and locations providing them. Local gov often looks to cutting library provision (reducing hours and locations) to trim its budget.

      Overall there would not be so great a saving - the provision of benefit offices by central gov being replaced by extended library services by local gov

    4. Merchman


      It would be, except the government cuts have/will close a lot of libraries. I believe that this is what is called 'joined up thinking'.

    5. TonyG

      Unfortunately they're also closing libraries.

    6. Anonymous Coward

      Great idea....

      ...what with many libraries closing down combined with transmitting personal and confidential data on a shared public pc, this sounds like a perfect solution.

    7. Peter Clarke 1
      Paris Hilton

      Are Libraries the Solution

      Unless people step forward into the Big Society then local libraries will start to disappear. It could be the nearest library is not far from the local Job Seekers Office so you might as well go direct.

    8. Chris Rowland

      Would be great but they are closing the libraries.

    9. Danny 14

      not really

      Our library is full of immigrants and transients on facebook.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But not everyone wants a job

      A relative of mine simply has no interest in getting a job and is quite content to live her life on benefits. She has had no meaningful employment since leaving school 20 years ago.

      She has no interest in getting training or learning something new, despite the fact here in Scotland we have ILA accounts contributing £200 free cash to a course each year.

      She constantly comes round to use our broadband because she can't afford to get her own, despite budget broadband deals costing a just a packet of fags per month.

      Sure, she has applied for jobs and actually had a couple of interviews, but has deliberately fucked up and walked out with a smirk on her face. She had a 12-week placement somewhere once, but screwed it up so much that there was no job at the end.

      We think she should have her benefits cut 'cos she is taking the piss, but then the council would pick up the tab anyway; that, or we would end up with a new lodger.

      Worse still, there are plenty of others just like her.

    11. This post has been deleted by its author

    12. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are libraries the solution? (Matthew 13)

      In many ways yes they would be a good answer; unfortunately they are also under threat - see (for example)

      To compound the problem, funding for libraries falls under the responsibility of the Local Council - so a different set of bean counters and a different set of backsides being held to the fire in the drive to reduce costs. It would require an incredible act of 'Joined up Government' to make this one work.

  2. Dave Murray

    False stats

    "written evidence says that 86 per cent of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants already use the internet, and 67 per cent have access in their homes"

    Just because 86% of JSA claimants told Jobcentre staff they would look for work online does not mean they actually have internet access. It just means that they know telling Jobcentre staff you will look for work online is a good way of preventing them telling you that you have to visit the Jobcentre at least once a week or you lose your benefits.

  3. Adrian Jones

    I'll believe it when I see it

    A few years ago I signed on, on-line. They were meant to call me back to check the details, and I was asked for a time period (morning or afternoon iirc) when they could call me.

    They didn't.

    I called them, and got to go through the entire form again, answering all the questions I'd already filled in.

    Then I had to go to the real Job Centre.

    Where one of the "advisors" printed out a copy of my form, asked me all the questions on it again and typed it (slowly) into her computer.

    I'd like to think it's improved now, but this is the Job Centre we're talking about. They'll probably expect you to answer all the questions on the form four times now.

    1. Mike007 Bronze badge

      Not sure they have improved it, I signed on online in december and although they did get my application and called me back to make an appointment, it was an appointment to go in and go through the application with someone in person, who basically just asked all the questions again to "check i had filled it in correctly", before filling in the details on their system for the "real" application.

      Somehow I had managed to fill in every detail correctly (imagine that), then whoever "processed my claim" apparently just went through editing random details to be incorrect, that's the only explanation I have for how they managed to get it wrong when the printout of the details that were on their system prior to that showed everything was put on there correctly!

  4. Select * From Handle

    i don't get this...

    England is in a recession with many people losing job and thus turning to the jobcenter for income support and guidance. And to cope with the increased demand they ("the committee says that Jobcentre Plus plans to become a smaller organisation and to rationalise its existing offices to correspond with the increase in online applications.") decide to become a smaller organisation?

    Government Fail IMO.

  5. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!

    Easy way of solving it that *all* dole claimants could use.

    Would there be any way of allowing claimants to make online transactions via a giant plasma screen TV connected to the Sky premium channel packages?


  6. tony

    You can get online for just over the cost of a 4 pack of Special Brew


    1. Rob Crawford

      Oh really

      I suppose a computer to go along with it costs 8 cans of Stella.

      Having been unemployed more than once in my life I know how hard it is to make ends meet.

      Believe me a usable computer & internet connection come considerably further down the list than making sure there is food on the table, heating (noticed inflation recently) and a roof over our heads.

      Yes it may be fine for Mr & Ms Chav who get every benefit because they are the underclass, have never worked & have no intention of doing so legally.

      However the rest of us who have suffered the humiliation of our welfare system have real difficulties surviving on benefit.

      It's not something I would ever care to repeat.

      No doubt DWP will blame the private sector on all the mistakes and overruns

  7. Colin Millar
    Big Brother

    "Depend heavily on ........ IT ...... HMRC"

    AKA - a slow motion train wreck

    Big brother is watching you but could you remind him who you are

  8. mark 63 Silver badge


    ".... and what are they doing having internet when they're not supposed to have any money , its no wonder my grant is so low!"

  9. James 100

    The article itself gives a figure of 31% of "the poorest" not using the Internet at present - meaning the other 69% DO use it already, and of course many of the other 31% *could* use it through libraries or other means if they did want to.

    Moreover, almost any new claimant (i.e. those needing to register with DWP) HAD a job of some sort until that moment, at which point they may well not have been in the bracket of "the poorest" anyway.

    It's a nice change to see a government department making an effort to reach the 21st century and deliver services online as far as possible; I still remember complaining in the late 90s to a local (Labour, rather old and old-fashioned) MP about the then-outrageous prices we had to pay for Net access. His reply, which I really which I could have recorded for posterity, was that he didn't think the Internet was something that should be encouraged or made affordable...

  10. theblackhand


    ...they could give smart phones to those on Jobseeker's Allowance to help them reach their target?

    It would also provide a way of keeping in touch with prospective employer's

    There really is no downside is there?

    Other than the taxpayer paying for it.....

  11. Aldous

    Except they are closing all the libraries

    1. Colin Millar

      yeah - but

      That will be the fault of some other part of the government.

      remember - the aim of the game is not to be carrying the can when the music stops

  12. Anonymous Coward 15

    I think it would be a dumb idea

    for reasons other than the "digital divide". It would be wide open to abuse, lying, laziness etc. I found when I was on JSA that if you appear to be fulfilling their requirements they don't question you and can't get you out the door fast enough. And even as a techie myself I am against people being effectively forced to use the Internet.

  13. All names Taken

    2.7 £billion?

    IT it with suitable support for non-IT or poorly IT literate then Off shore it.

    2.7 billion?

    I thought gobmint contracts were supposed to be competitive?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Plenty of PCs in most schools, why not use them in the evening where there isn't a local library..with appropriate controls in place?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because ...

      that would be far too sensible.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My partner just had to do it, redundant for the 3rd time in 4 yrs! British Gas this time, apparently not making enough profit.

    You already have to start your claim online or via a phone. 0800, but no good if you only have a mobile; alternately use the phone in the office in public where everyone can hear all that is said.

    The online system session times out, you don't know what info they will ask for and it takes time to find it all, but it will refuse to start another session until you shut down the browser and restart it.

    Then they interview you to see if you're eligible to claim. Apparently paying in for 25 yrs means nothing if you've been made redundant twice within 18 months.

    Then they follow that up with a group meeting where you are told how ashamed you should be to be made redundant and that you should have tugged your forelock more often, of course whilst they do this they pretend to be on your side and empathise, probably so you don't turn around and tell them to fcuk off, you're only going to pay the NI stamp and I probably won't need that to claim the state pension pittence after the upcoming pension changes.

    How they seem to forget that they are supposed to work for us, the state is run by fcuktards!

    1. Dave Bell

      A lot of what might be called "support" has been privatised.

      A good many jobs on offer are never seen by the DWP systems.

      And their computer-based system has real trouble with pinning down where a job might be. I've seen them class jobs in Swansea as local to Scunthorpe. I can understand a confusion between where a company office might be and where the job is, but it's still bad design.

      I don't think DWP really knows what is happening, or how to find out.

  16. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    The PLOD need look no further then?

    If the majority do business with the DVLA online yet only a small percentage of Claimants do the same then they need look no further than the others for those who:-

    - Don't Tax their car, sorry rustbucket.

    - Don't Insure their car

    A Doh! moment if ever I saw one then

  17. JaitcH

    Government Service Centres

    In Canada there are Service Canada and Service Ontario, etc.

    These offices are staffed by a handful of 'generalists' who are trained to answer common questions but also know who to reach out to get specific answers to unusual requests.

    Additionally, these offices are equipped with dialing capability to government offices along with PC's for online assistance/

    There are also stand alone ATM type terminals which can issue various licences and permits, accept payment, etc. These are usally located in shopping centres an the like. Of course, we don't have dress restrictions so anyone can use them. I guess hoodie wearing Brits are banned.

  18. Kubla Cant

    Real time?

    "Universal Credit needs real-time data on the earnings of every adult".

    How exactly does anybody, let alone a group of IT incompetents from the public sector, expect to gather real-time earnings data? It might theoretically be possible with, say, taxi drivers, where there's a real-time earnings meter in the cab, but most people's earnings data is emphatically batch-mode.

    Could it be that they just mean "up-to-date", but they think "real-time" sounds more technical and wizz-o?

  19. Bunker_Monkey

    "Margaret Hodge, chair of the committee, said that the transition to Universal Credit will depend heavily on the development of a new IT system with HMRC to a very tight timetable"

    PMSL - Yeah ok dear!

  20. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @not really

    You only have to worry when they are full of German immigrants writing books on economics - that can lead to trouble

  21. trafalgar


    Get rid of the JSA system. Give everyone employed and unemployed a non-means tested allowance, ~£65/week and those working tax them the extra £65 week. Public sector is too large in this country. Better to pay a benefit allowance of £3380/year than a salary of £20K+ for jobs that aren't needed.

    To prevent creation of a work shy underclass: 1. Stop them procreating. Offer £1000 to girls to have a contraceptive chip implanted, which will be removed if they can pay back (hopefully developing the discipline to earn and save) the £1000. 2. Better resources in primary school to compensate the kids who come from a poor home life.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone who's signed on has asked themselves this question:

    "we're both sitting here wasting time, so how come for you, that counts as a job, but for me, it's an indication that I need to 'get my act together'?"

    fire the lot of them. replace them with an automated phone system. just as useless, half the cost.

  23. Andrew Jones 2

    only 17% online...

    That will be because the website is as bad as the in-building job search computers are.

    If you tell it you are looking for a job within 30 miles - you expect to see jobs within 30 miles.

    But no, it will show you jobs 30 miles away, 100 miles away, Germany, Spain and France. More often that not it will favour the jobs that are further away and stick them all at the beginning of the search results list.

  24. Triggerfish

    Libraries arent always as great access as you think to apply for a job, first you can't use thumbdrives so everything has to be done there and then, some even only have a few computers that have access to email, you may only get a limited time, and if you live far enough away from a library (especially since they are closing little local ones) then cost of getting there becomes a factor, nice as it is for some to believe that every one on benefits is doing alright for a lot the extra expense of getting to a place becomes a factor.

    For all those with the cost of some special brew/fags arguement heres your test, take £65 now survive on that each week for the next month or two, thats for all of your food, your bills (apart from CT and rent), and transport (say half the week since your going to work all week), anything else you wan't it doesn't last that long.

    Plus some people just don't or can't use computers, one of my neighbours is a builder, has never even had a computer.

    I've been unemployed and I have temped between jobs for the council benefits service , and even those coming off of jobs can end up pretty screwed suprisingly fast.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Solution to unemployment problem.

    It occurs to me that many people are unable to find meaningful employment because of intense competition i.e. 130 applicants for the same supermarket job.

    So... the solution would seem to be to reduce the competition.

    Allocate a given number of jobseekers in the immediate area with suitable skills to each job, and require applicants to have passed a basic aptitude test consisting of likely work tasks before proceeding to the interview if applicable.

    This would help weed out the timewasters and those who are only applying because they have to, and give people who are willing to work the chance to do so.

    Idea *2. Automate application forms. People genuinely do get put off by ridiculously complicated application forms which only differ by 5% from job to job.

    Ask the questions that are needed (previous employment history, qualifications etc) once, and forward this information automatically in response to the jobs that fit the profile.

    Idea *3. Abolish criminal record checks for jobseekers for minor outdated offences. What useful purpose is served by denying someone a job because they were silly and broke a window 10 years ago but have been otherwise law abiding since.

    Yes I can see the need for dishonesty offences and/or serious driving offences being noted but even then one way around this would be to reduce wages rather than denying employment entirely as a halfway house.

    I call it "time served", if you can get someone who is willing to work for lower wages because they made a mistake then the company benefits as well.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "basic aptitude test consisting of likely work tasks"

      If only. The number of stupid luser stories I've read on other techie sites.

  26. Anonymous Coward 15

    Helped my brother apply online recently

    When you enter your address, you have to include the country. Now, for almost everyone that will be the UK. Other options on the list included Antarctica, the USSR, the Byelorussian SSR as well as Belarus, the German Democratic Republic, Zaire as well as Dem Rep of Congo, and Southern Rhodesia.

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