ESA Assessment Phase - Voluntary WFI now Mandatory

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Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

In the DWP document Jobcentre Plus Offer V1.0 from 2015 (chapter 1) it states:

“Voluntary ESA Claimants
17. Voluntary claimants are not required to undertake any activity and can not be subjected to a sanction if they fail to attend or participate in any interview or work related activity.
Voluntary claimants are:
- Claimants placed in the Support Group following their Work Capability Assessment (and Claimants who have made a new claim to ESA and are waiting their initial WCA),”

It is now the case that people in the ESA assessment phase (i.e. “who have made a new claim to ESA and are waiting their initial WCA”) are now mandatory participants for work-focused interviews (e.g. health and work conversation).

RFI1 – Why did the DWP originally make participation in WFI voluntary for people in the ESA assessment phase?

RFI2 - Why did the DWP change participation of WFI from voluntary to mandatory for ESA claimants in the assessment phase?

RFI3 – When did the DWP make this change?

RFI4 – How did the DWP publish the change in approach to notify people?

RFI5 – Are further policy discussions taking place related to ESA claimants in the assessment phase?

RFI6 – Please disclose chapter disclose the latest version of the Jobcentre Plus offer that covers conditionality for ESA claimants in the assessment phase (I assume it will still be chapter 1).

Yours faithfully,

John Slater

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DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request.

You can expect a reply by 8 August 2017 unless I need to come back to you to clarify your request or the balance of the public interest test needs to be considered.

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Yours sincerely

DWP Strategy FoI Team

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DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

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Please see the attached reply and accompanying document to your Freedom of
Information request.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

DWP Strategy FoI Team

 

 

 

 

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Work and Pensions's handling of my FOI request 'ESA Assessment Phase - Voluntary WFI now Mandatory'.

Thank you for your response of 8 August 2017 (Ref: FoI 2920)

In response to:
“RFI1 – Why did the DWP originally make participation in WFI voluntary for people in the ESA assessment phase? “

The Department responded:
“Previously WFIs were mandatory for claimants in the ESA assessment phase but due to operational reasons this changed in 2010 and support in the assessment phase was made voluntary. “

I suggest that the Department’s response is not compliant with the FOIA. In effect the Department is saying “we had our reasons but we are not going to tell you.”

In order to satisfy my request I believe that the Department must explain what those “operational reasons” are.

In response to:
“RFI2 - Why did the DWP change participation of WFI from voluntary to mandatory for ESA claimants in the assessment phase? “

The department responded:
“The Department has introduced the HWC (which is a mandatory WFI) to provide claimants with support much earlier in their claim. The purpose of the HWC is to help build the claimant’s motivation and resilience, build a relationship with their work coach and provide an opportunity to access support earlier.”

I suggest that the Department’s response is not compliant with the FOIA. The fact that the HWC is a mandatory WFI is clearly a choice made by the DWP. Therefore, claiming that HWC satisfies my request is flawed. This is supported by the fact that the pilot of the HWC was done on a voluntary basis.

Based on the Department’s original response, in order to satisfy my request it must disclose why the HWC is mandatory rather than voluntary.

In response to:
“RFI6 – Please disclose the latest version of the Jobcentre Plus offer that covers conditionality for ESA claimants in the assessment phase (I assume it will still be chapter 1). “

The department responded:
“Please find attached the latest version of Chapter 1 from the Jobcentre Plus Offer. The Jobcentre Plus Offer is currently in the process of being amended to reflect the introduction of the mandatory HWC and the sites that are now delivering nationally.”

Given that the Department started to roll out the HWC in January 2017 it is shocking that it still hasn’t updated existing guidance to reflect a live activity some 8 months later. Can the Department please disclose when the Jobcentre Plus Offer will be updated to reflect the introduction of the HWC? It is reasonable to assume that the Department has a plan or target date for this to be completed.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/e...

Yours faithfully,

John Slater

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been accepted by the DWP FoI mailbox.
 
By the next working day your request will be forwarded to the relevant
information owner within the Department who will respond to you direct. 
 
If your email is a Freedom of Information request you can normally
expect a response within 20 working days.
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with this request do
please contact us.
 
For further information on the Freedom of Information Act within DWP
please click on the link below.
 
[1]http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...
 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...

DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Please see the attached reply to your Internal Review request
 
Yours sincerely
 
DWP Strategy Freedom of Information Team

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