Jobseekers forced to join site at centre of security questions

As the weight of government cuts continues to fall on benefits, a new scheme for jobseeker’s allowance claimants has come under scrutiny.

Unemployed people will be obliged to sign up to a government website at the centre of mounting concerns - as well as posting their CVs online - or face losing their benefits from 2013.

The Universal Jobmatch site has come under heavy fire after hackers broke through its protective filters and exposed gaping security flaws. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith admitted that while thousands of fake job ads placed on the site by hackers had been intercepted, some fake and fraudulent postings had appeared.

Channel 4 News reported last month that a group of hackers managed to get personal details from dozens of job applicants signed up to the site, including passwords, national insurance numbers and even passport scans – everything an enterprising fraudster might need to commit identity theft.

Nevertheless, Mr Duncan Smith has announced that joining the site would become compulsory, regardless of whether or not people can demonstrate that they are searching for work in other ways. He said: “We have been clear that this is not mandatory yet and there will be no sanctions for not joining…but mandation will begin in the new year.”

The removal of benefit payments will be left to the discretion of job centre staff and be decided on a case by case basis. But jobseekers expressed concern at being forced to upload sensitive information to a site that has been demonstrated to be far from secure.

The site has been set up by recruitment firm Monster, who have earned £16.7m from the contract. Iain Duncan-Smith said it would “revolutionise” the job search process and added that job advisors are able to impose sanctions such as “mandatory work activity” if they feel the unemployed are not pulling out all the stops to find work.

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