Last month a discussion took place in the Benefits and Work forum about whether claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG) who were appealing to be placed in the support group could be obliged to attend work-focused interviews (WFIs )or take part in the work programme. A similar discussion also took place on Rightsnet. In neither case was a firm conclusion reached.

This is not an issue which legislation covers, so Benefits and Work made a freedom of information request to the DWP for guidance issued to staff and we can now give a clearer answer.

In a nutshell
Claimants in the WRAG who are appealing to be placed in the support group will not be put into the work programme.

However, they will have an initial mandatory work-focused interview and following this the Jobcentre Plus adviser has the power to oblige them to attend further WFIs and undertake work-related activities, regardless of whether they are appealing or not.

In detail
Jobcentre Plus staff are told that claimants in the WRAG who are appealing to be placed in the support group ‘​cannot be referred to the work programme’​.

However, since April all claimants in the WRAG who are not referred to the work programme are subject to the Jobcentre Plus Offer. This is described as a package of personalised advice and support to help claimants move into employment. As part of the ‘​offer’​ claimants have a mandatory New Joiners Work-Focused Interview. This happens regardless of whether the claimant is appealing to be placed in the support group or not.

At this interview the personal adviser will decide what level of support –​ or ‘​flexible intervention’​ -the claimant requires to help them get a job.

Flexible interventions may involve further face-to-face interviews, telephone calls or group sessions as well as work-related activities. But advisers are expected to spend more time with claimants who are likely to get a job. The level of support they provide to each individual is at their discretion.

All flexible interventions decided upon by an adviser, except group information sessions, are mandatory.

So, where a claimant is viewed by the adviser as being a long way from work ready they are likely to have very few interventions, perhaps just an occasional telephone call. Where, however, an adviser is of the opinion that the claimant is close to being able to work they may be subject to more frequent face-to-face interviews and the requirement to undertake work-related activities.

Extracts from an unnamed Jobcentre Plus guidance document for advisers is available from the DWP resources section of the Members Only ESA resources.


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