Oxymoronic Catch-22 @DWP: New ‘Health & Work Conversation’ is both mandatory and ‘voluntary’…

Notice: If you are a prospective new ESA claimant it is suggested you do not act on the views below, without first seeking independent advice, support and solidarity. This is because the DWP is a dysfunctional organisation, engages in ‘conscious cruelty‘ and uses a secret penal system.
One recommended source of advice & information is AskCPAG.


In true Oxymoronic Kafka style the new joint DWP and ‘Nudge Unit‘* ‘Health and Work Conversation‘ (HWC), starting April 2017, is both mandatory and voluntary, to quote:

“The Health and Work Conversation is claimant led, if a claimant feels uncomfortable answering some questions in the Health and  Work Conversation they will not be referred for a sanction. However, if they refuse to engage at all in the HWC then they may be referred for a sanction. The Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/794) contain the provisions which enable the Department to apply a sanction” [emphasis added]
Source: DWP – 24 January 2017

Plus when a HWC Action Plan is ‘agreed’, any activities are “voluntary”, to quote again:

“The Health and Work Conversation will help claimants to establish a
relationship with their work coach at an early stage, provides an opportunity for the claimant to be made aware of available support, and allows the claimant and work coach to jointly develop a plan of voluntary activities” [emphasis added]
Source: DWP – 30 November 2016

This is a form of DWP/Nudge Unit behaviour modification negates any idea of ethical ‘choice architecture‘, when backed by a punitive benefit sanctions regime of conscious cruelty.

“Welfare reforms and £330 million employment package start from April 2017**
This will also include:

  • 300 new Disability Employment Advisers in jobcentres across the country
  • a one-to-one health and work conversation with a Jobcentre Plus Work Coach to help raise confidence in managing a health condition, when appropriate” [emphasis added]

Source: DWP – 31st March 2017


More comments and analysis and FOI Act requests on the HWC, can be found on https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/dwp, outstanding requests of note ‘Regulations & Tailoring‘ and ‘Queries‘.

“There does not appear to be any prescribed powers for the Secretary of State to require an ESA claimant to discuss their health or set health related goals with a work coach at a WFI” (Work Focused Interview aka Health and Work Conversation)

*Behaviour Insights Team (BIT), also known as the ‘Nudge Unit’.
“The conversation was co-designed by the DWP with BIT, health and disabled people’s
charities, and front line staff. It draws on an extensive body of behavioural research
undertaken by Professor Gabriele Oettingen and others at New York University.”

**The DWP has said the “Health and Work conversation training is still being developed and will be available to support Health and  Work Conversation roll-out in summer 2017”