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UK – Leaked memo reveals plans to scrap government jobs website

18 March 2014

The government has drawn up plans to scrap its official jobs website, Universal Jobmatch, after recognising it is too expensive and that its purpose is undermined by fake and repeat job entries, according to a report in the Guardian. The newspaper alleges to have seen leaked internal communications from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The multimillion-pound contract was won by Monster in 2012 but DWP has been struggling to justify the increasing running costs of the site. Civil servants say that the US job site, which pioneered online recruitment two decades ago, has demanded an extra £975,000 to clear Universal Jobmatch of fraudulent employment listings. At the beginning of March this year, more than 120,000, or one-fifth, of all job adverts from over 180 employer accounts were removed, because the ads did not abide by the site's terms and conditions.

The memo reveals that the website's problems stemmed from a decision by ministers that the site be as "open" as possible to all types of employers, according to the Guardian. Recruitment agencies have taken advantage of this openness by uploading repeat adverts while fake employers had also targeted the site. MP Frank Field is now pressing the National Audit Office to investigate the site which he described as "bedevilled with fraud”.

The project to digitise job-searching activity for millions of unemployed people has been beset with problems from its inception. The DWP was forced to rerun the bidding process for the contract and previously leaked documents detail how the department had to pay compensation to one of the failed bidders. DWP’s contract with Monster runs to 2016.

Stephen O'Donnell, who runs the National Online Recruitment Awards, said that while Monster had made "very good money" on the contract, the DWP was to blame for creating a "real mongrel of a website". "Monster … have real expertise worldwide in building spectacular job boards. They more or less invented the industry. So you do think 'how come it's so bad'? The reason for that is the civil servants basically told Monster 'forget everything you know about job boards, this is what we want'."

O'Donnell added “job centres used to have good checks before the site was launched. It used to be, to put a job in a job centre, a recruitment agency had to call and identify themselves, go through various checks and identify the employer." Without those checks, however he said many more anonymous postings were being uploaded to the site.

"I do not hold Monster at fault: they have been directed by the DWP to do what they are told. I think it's criminally unfair to sanction jobseekers for not using such a clumsily built website, rife with spammers … identity thieves and anonymous job ads."

A spokesman for the DWP said that "Universal Jobmatch revolutionises the way jobseekers find work and it has already helped many jobseekers find the jobs they want since it was launched in 2012.

"How people find work has become increasingly digital so it's right - and responsible - that DWP should continually look to ensure we are making the best offer to jobseekers.

"The current Universal Jobmatch contract comes to an end in 2016 so any speculation on what will happen after that is premature."

Monster declined to comment.

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