Health & Work Conversation: Behavioural Science tools & info disclosed that seek only “true” “appropriate” answers

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. Plus “many claimants do not see…[Jobcentre] work coaches as on their side”
One recommended source of advice & information is AskCPAG.

Content
[1] Claimant led?
[2] Genuine open and mutual ‘conversation’?
[3] Is the HWC/Work Focused Interview (WFI) mandatory?
[3.1] What is a WFI?
[3.2] What about the HWC Action Plan? Mandatory or Voluntary?
[4] Some more questions
[5] DWP’s Behavioural ‘Science’ tools and information disclosed
[5.1] HWC training documents for ‘Work Coaches’
[6] Behavioural ‘Science’, psychological coercion and pseudoscience
[7] DWP’s Behavioural ‘Science’ Team
[8] DWP HWC presentation slides
[9] Views from disabled activists and Disabled People’s Organisations
[9.1] DWP’s list of Charities and Disabled Persons User Led Organisations consulted
[10] Work as a health outcome?
[11] HWC & the draft Employment and Support Allowance (Claimant Commitment) Regulations 2016
[11.1] The Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2013

[1] Claimant led?

Today the DWP has released more details of how Behavioural ‘Science’, underpins it’s Health & Work Conversation (HWC), for new Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claims. The internal documents and training material from the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) [AKA Nudge Unit] and DWP make a mockery of the idea that this ‘Conversation’ is in anyway “claimant led”.

[2] Genuine open and mutual ‘conversation’?

How can anyone engage in any genuine open and mutual ‘conversation’ at a Jobcentre when it’s Work ‘Coaches’ are trained to use a contrived “script” and seek “true” and “appropriate” answers and understand and inculcate ‘Growth and Positive mindsets’? Then there is the fact that the ‘conversation’ appointment at the Jobcentre is mandatory, for sick and disabled people making a new claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA), with benefits sanctions for failure to participate in or attend the ‘conversation’.

What could possibly be achieved when the time allocated for a face to face Jobcentre Work ‘Coach’ ‘conversation’ is 40 minutes?

“The DWP’s [HWC] plans have been described by disabled activists as “DWP skulduggery”, “pernicious”, “oppressive”, “punitive”, and “abusive”.”
Source: Disability News Network – ‘Boycott call after DWP wrongly claims DPOs helped devise punitive work scheme ‘ 4/5/17

[3] Is the HWC/Work Focused Interview mandatory?

As part of the HWC claimants are sent a questionnaire booklet and ‘my-values’ exercise, to be completed before they attend, or during, a HWC appointment at the Jobcentre with a Work ‘Coach’. What is highly deceitful is that the DWP does not inform claimants they are not required to complete the booklet or do the ‘my-values’ exercise.

optional

The Child Poverty Action Group say attending the face-to-face Jobcentre Work ‘Coach’ HWC is however mandatory and carried out under existing work-focused interview (WFI) rules in Reg 54 Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008, No.794.

However to quote page one of the booklet, it says:

“Do you need to take part in the health and work conversation?
Yes. The health and work conversation is part of your claim to ESA.
Your ESA payments could be reduced [sanctioned] if you don’t take part in your conversation” (original emphasis)

Whereas when the DWP was asked to clarify it stated:

“The HWC is a claimant led conversation so claimants can decide whether they want to discuss  their health. If claimants do not wish to discuss their health the work coach will tailor the discussions based on what they are comfortable discussing.

The My Values exercise is an optional exercise that claimants can complete during the HWC. The work coach will ask the claimant whether they want to complete the My Values Exercise. A sanction would not apply for not completing the My Values exercise.

Where a claimant doesn’t complete the HWC booklet but participates and engages in the conversation, a failure to participate sanction will not apply.”
Source: DWP FOI response (2302) – 20/6/7

Therefore it is mandatory to attend the HWC/WFI Jobcentre appointment, the ‘My Values‘ exercise is “optional” and “Where a claimant doesn’t complete the HWC booklet but participates and engages (See [3.1] below and RFI1) in the conversation, a failure to participate sanction will not apply.” To reiterate, this is another version of what the DWP says on the booklet:

“The Health and Work Conversation (HWC) is a mandatory Work Focused Interview and claimants are required to participate. Where a claimant doesn’t complete the HWC booklet but participates and engages in the conversation, a failure to participate sanction will not apply”
Source: DWP FOI response (2290) – 20/6/7

The conundrum(s) created here are through the DWP’s view that the HWC/WFI is “claimant led” and also saying “claimants can decide whether they want to discuss their health. If claimants do not wish to discuss their health the work coach will tailor the discussions based on what they are comfortable discussing”, which seems to be at variance to what the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 say a WFI actually is? [See [3.1] below]

Then there is the DWP Minister’s view that claimants are “not required to disclose sensitive personal data as part of” a Health and Work Conversation. Although no sanction applies for not completing the booklet and the ‘My Values’ exercise is “optional”, how can claimants be expected to know precisely what they must disclose at the face-to-face Jobcentre HWCWFI, to show they are engaging and participating without risk of a sanction? Let alone challenge the DWP’s use of Behavioural ‘Science’ (BS) tools and Work ‘Coach’ inculcation of BS ‘Growth and Positive mindsets’?

All of these contradictions may lie in the fact that the design of  HWCs/WFI for new ESA claims was piloted as entirely voluntary and now made mandatory means the legal basis is unclear. The DWP may seek to partially resolve matters with the draft Employment and Support Allowance (Claimant Commitment) Regulations 2016 (See item [11] below). In the meantime this mess is likely to leave ‘vulnerable’ new ESA claimants at significant risk of unlawful sanctions.

Related: “Claimants not required to disclose sensitive personal data as part of” Health and Work Conversation. DWP Minister @DWP says completion of Health and Work Conversation questionnaire booklet not mandatory…only ‘conversation’! and ‘Oxymoronic Catch-22 @DWP: New ‘Health & Work Conversation’ is both mandatory and ‘voluntary’…

[3.1] What is a Work Focused Interview (WFI)?

“Regulation 57 of the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 sets out when a claimant is to be regarded as having taken part in a Work Focused Interview.
The HWC is a Work Focused Interview.
Please see Regulation 57 of the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 below:
57.—(1) A claimant is regarded as having taken part in a work-focused interview if the
claimant—
(a) attends for the interview at the place and at the date and time notified in accordance with regulation 56;
(b) provides information, if requested by the Secretary of State, about any or all of the
matters set out in paragraph (2);
(c) participates in discussions to the extent the Secretary of State considers necessary, about any or all of the matters set out in paragraph (3);
(d) assists the Secretary of State in the completion of an action plan.

(2) The matters referred to in paragraph (1)(b) are—
(a) the claimant’s educational qualifications and vocational training;
(b) the claimant’s work history;
(c) the claimant’s aspirations for future work;
(d) the claimant’s skills that are relevant to work;
(e) the claimant’s work-related abilities;
(f) the claimant’s caring or childcare responsibilities; and
(g) any paid or unpaid work that the claimant is undertaking.

(3) The matters referred to in paragraph (1)(c) are—
(a) any activity the claimant is willing to undertake which may make obtaining or remaining in work more likely;
(b) any such activity that the claimant may have previously undertaken;
(c) any progress the claimant may have made towards remaining in or obtaining work;
(d) any work-focused health-related assessment the claimant may have taken part in; and
(e) the claimant’s opinion as to the extent to which the ability to remain in or obtain work is restricted by the claimant’s physical or mental condition. ”
Source: DWP FOI reply (1341) – 2/5/17

Queries on HWC and WFI have been submitted via FOI requests, highlighted here.

[3.2] What about the HWC Action Plan? Mandatory or Voluntary?

As part of the HWC an Action Plan is drawn up at the mandated face-to-face Jobcentre appointment, which can cover voluntary, work and health related goals/activities whilst a new ESA claimant is in the “assessment phase“. Whilst the DWP says all activities in the plan are voluntary, there is also a strong possibility that they and additional activity/conditions may/will become mandatory when a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) “main phase” places the ESA claimant in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). The current HWC Action Plan seems to be a stop gap whilst a new ESA specific Claimant Commitment (CC) is “in development” with new “regulations” due this summer* [see item 11 below] and or the DWP only plan to use an ESA CC after a WCA determination has been made placing the claimant in the WRAG category?

Reg 58 of the The Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 defines an Action Plan as:

58.—(1) An action plan is a document that is completed by the Secretary of State and contains—

(a) a record of a work-focused interview;

(b) a record of any activity that the claimant is willing to take which may make obtaining or remaining in work more likely or which may make it more likely that the claimant will be able to do so;

(c) any other information that the Secretary of State considers to be appropriate.

(2) An action plan must be in writing.

(3) The Secretary of State must provide a claimant who attends a work-focused interview with an action plan.

“After the My 4 Steps the claimant and the work coach will put together an action plan. These are actions that the claimant agrees to do and are voluntary before their WCA” (emphasis added)
Source: DWP FOI reply (2254)

lmsactionplan.png

*The snap general election and the short queen’s speech may mean no new HWC or CC regulations will be introduced for two years.

[4] Some more questions

“RFI 2: Do you provide any information to claimants that they are not required to disclose sensitive personal data, concerning their health and disability, at or prior to the HWC? Please provide copies of such a notice or information.

The Department continuously reviews its communications to ensure that it is clear to claimants that they are not required to share information related to their health and disability.”
Source: DWP FOI reply (2254) – 26/06/17

[5] DWP’s Behavioural ‘Science’ tools and information disclosed

Questionnaire booklet

‘My Values’ exercise

HWC Operational Instructions
(See extracts and comments)

Health and Work Conversation Booklet WORK COACH VERSION

A 60 minute e-learning session for Work Coaches
“The aim of this e-learning session is to give you an overview of
the Health and Work Conversation (HWC) as well as to introduce
you to two important tools that will help you deliver it: growth
mindsets and My Values.

This e-learning session is therefore broken into 3 modules:
1. Policy context and overview of the HWC
2. Growth mindsets
3. My Values”

Work Coach Reference Guide for the Health & Work Conversation
“This document brings together the different elements
of the Health & Work Conversation (HWC)
and summarises how they fit together, what their
purpose is, and how to do them. It also covers the
evidence behind these elements and the benefits
associated with them. ”

My 4 Steps template
“Fill in this section of the booklet with your work coach. Look at what you want to do and how you can do it”

Health and Work Conversation Handout 05.02 – Drilling Down for My 4 Steps

[5.1] HWC training documents for ‘Work Coaches’

Training introductions

About Me

Action Plan

My 4 Steps

My Values

Related DWP FOI reply (2312) – 12/7/17

[6] Behavioural ‘Science’, psychological coercion and pseudoscience

For ground breaking analysis on the DWP’s use of Behavioural ‘Science’ and psychological coercion, check out:

Whistle While You Work (For Nothing): Positive Affect as Coercive Strategy – The Case of Workfare
“There has been little or no debate about the recruitment of psychology/psychologists into monitoring,  modifying and/or punishing  people who claim social security benefits.”

“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
Source: DWP FOI reply (4157) “Health and Work Conversation” – 30/11/16

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) “has been centrally involved in designing the Health and Work Conversation based on evidence from behavioural science, as well as user-testing with both claimants and work coaches. The intervention draws on three particular strands of behavioural science research.

The first technique is a combination of ‘mental contrasting’, developed by Professor
Gabriele Oettingen (who is working with BIT to implement the changes) and
implementation intentions’, which draws on the work of Professor Peter Gollwitzer.
Studies have shown that encouraging an individual to think about their goals or wishes and then mentally contrasting these with the obstacles that might get in their way, can help people to achieve their goals more effectively. These interventions work by encouraging people to actively plan how, where and when they will then take specific actions.

The second strand concerns ‘self-affirmation’, which focuses on building the resilience
of claimants by getting them to reflect on their personal values… (“The second intervention was an online Values Affirmation (VA) exercise, which we developed with Professor Geoffrey Cohen and his team at Stanford” page 21.)

The third strand draws on Professor Carol Dweck’s work on ‘growth mindsets’ (as opposed to ‘fixed mindsets’), in which coaches and claimants are encouraged to think about how they can learn and develop new skills”
Source: Page 45 – The Behavioural Insights Team – Update Report 2015-16 (pdf)

 

[7] DWP’s Behavioural ‘Science’ Team

Headed by Carla Groom. Twitter: @carla_groom & linkedin
dwp bs team

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/behavioural_science#incoming-994607

[8] DWP HWC presentation slides

Download a copy of the DWP 11 page HWC presentation slides (.ppt file). Source: rightsnet.org.uk forum ‘health and work conversation’ 13/3/17

hwcslides.png

[9] Views from disabled activists and Disabled People’s Organisations

Disability News Network articles on the HWC.

Boycott call after DWP wrongly claims DPOs helped devise punitive work scheme – 4/5/17

DWP presentation on ESA plans ‘confirms worst fears’ about green paper – 30/3/17

You can also search online for background information and submissions to the consultation: on the ‘Work, health and disability green paper: improving lives’, that include comments on the HWC.

Arthritis Care
“We are concerned that the Health and Work Conversation will be mandatory, as this could be very stressful for people who are extremely unwell and not in a position to think about returning to work, and undermines trust in the benefits system. Participating in this conversation should be voluntary, particularly for people placed in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Support Group.”

BABCP/BPC/BPS/UKCP
This new approach must be underpinned by appropriate specialist advice and be
developed in consultation with relevant disabled and mental health organisations.

Moreover, as stated previously, we strongly recommend that any changes the Government makes to the tools and specialist support given to work coaches
should be trialled before roll out, and the impact of these changes on mental health and wellbeing should be monitored. The changes should not only be trialled individually, but also as a package, as the impact of changes may be cumulative” (original emphasis)

Disability Agenda Scotland
“DAS does not agree that the proposed ‘Health and Work Conversation’ is an appropriate form of personalised support for Work Coaches to help disabled people return to work. We are concerned at the mandatory nature of the proposals and their timing immediately following an application for ESA. ”

Shaw Trust
“The Health and Work Conversation (HWC) should be voluntary to best enable disabled people to move into employment.”

[9.1] DWP’s list of Charities and Disabled Persons User Led Organisations consulted

“The list below sets out the Charities and Disabled Persons User Led Organisations that were consulted during the development of the Health and Work Conversation:
– Action on Disability and Work
– Breakthrough UK
– Citizens Advice Bureau
– Disability Action Alliance
– Disability Dynamics
– Disability Rights UK
– Evenbreak
– Leonard Cheshire
– Macmillan
– Mencap
– MIND
– The National Autistic Society
– Reform
– Remploy
– Rethink
– Royal National Institute of Blind People
– Scope
– Shaw Trust
– Turning Point
– Wavelength
– WhizzKidz”
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/374815/response/914993/attach/html/3/4576.pdf.html

[10] Work as a health outcome?

The ideology that underpins the HWC is a drive to impose a far reaching view that work can be a health outcome, which is one of the main goals of the DWP. If this does get wider recognition it potentially opens the gateway for the DWP and Department of Health to work jointly and crucially enable joint processing/sharing of personal data on benefit claimants health and disability and benefit claims, with far lesser regard to fully informed explicit consent. Although stronger rules on consent and data sharing, in the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation, may stymie this DWP objective.

However, it’s worth thinking about how joint work-and-health schemes across NHS, DWP and Local Authorities is already operating, like the ‘Healthy Work Conversations: Up streaming Work for Health‘ and via devolution in Greater Manchester and London.

“Work is a determinant of health and as such is a public health priority.”
Source: Greater Manchester Public Health Network

New plans to help more people with long term conditions reap the benefits of work and improve their health.
The plans proposed today include:

  • a wide-ranging debate about recognising the value of work as a health outcome”

Source: DWP Press Release ‘Work and health plan to help disabled people into employment‘ 31/10/16

[11] HWC & the draft Employment and Support Allowance (Claimant Commitment) Regulations 2016

Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) – Minutes (pdf) on the draft Employment and Support Allowance (Claimant Commitment) Regulations 2016
SSAC: Home page, Minutes, latest, consultations, reports

“The intention was that any activity specified in a revised claimant commitment following the Health and Work Conversation would be voluntary up to
the point at which the work capability assessment (WCA) took place”

[11.1] The Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2013

PART 8 (Sanctions)

44.Claimant commitment – date and method of acceptance

45.Claimant commitment – exceptions

46.Purposes of a work-focused interview [inc Health and Work Conversation
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/379/contents/made

Updated 12/7/17 Added [11] and [11.1]
Updated 13/7/17 Added [3.1]

 

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