Unemployed claimants are being forced to go on compulsory courses run by Scottish colleges under threat of sanctions. This is despite the fact that Employability Services were devolved in April 2017 and the Scottish government has declared that all devolved Employability Services are voluntary.
ECAP has learnt that jobcentres in the Highlands are issuing Job Seekers Directions to compel claimants to attend Employability Services courses run by local colleges. This means that if they do not attend they will almost certainly be sanctioned.
The compulsion continues once claimants arrive at the courses. At some courses claimants have been presented with an EMPLOYABILITY SUPPORT SERVICES REGISTRATION FORM which they are told they have to sign or they will be reported for refusal/ failure to participate. This form includes a clause giving those running the course the right to share the claimant’s personal information with third parties. There is no opt-out clause to decline personal information sharing.
Keep your personal info safe
However it is long established that Data Protection laws mean that claimants cannot be forced to share personal information with third parties and cannot be sanctioned for declining to do so. ECAP urges anyone in such a situation not to agree to share their personal information, unless they really want to give their personal details to a host of unknown organisations.
While it is unclear what relationship these particular courses have to the new devolved Employability Services, the EMPLOYABILITY SUPPORT SERVICES REGISTRATION FORM for one of the compulsory courses includes the Scottish Government as one of the sponsors/ organisers, along with Highland Council and the European Social Fund. Plus, education does of course come under the remit of the Scottish Government.
While our information is from the Highlands it is very possible similar coercion is being used round Scotland. We know that, despite the Scottish Government avowed opposition to workfare, Edinburgh College as well as colleges elsewhere in Scotland have in the recent past been involved in workfare schemes such as Community Work Placements and the Work Programme.
ECAP urges any claimants who have had such experiences to contact us – anonymity guaranteed.
We denounce the continuing compulsion being used against claimants in Scotland. We insist the Scottish government take immediate steps to end the involvement of Scottish Colleges with DWP mandatory schemes, Job Seekers Directions and sanctions. What’s more colleges must stop using forms which attempt to pressurise claimants into personal information sharing. We call on workers in colleges to act to stop their bosses being involved in such mandatory schemes.
ECAP will be investigating this further, with a view to encouraging and organising action if these compulsory courses are not stopped. In the same way as we organise blockades and occupations of employers using workfare, we cannot allow Colleges to collude with DWP bullying, threats and sanctions against claimants.