My personal experience of a work-focused interview at JobCentrePlusPosted: January 18, 2013
I have been working on the SLaM Involvement Register for about 18 months.
I have been on Incapacity Benefit since 2005 and a few months ago I received a letter saying that I would now be put on ESA. I had to fill out the long ESA forms going through my medical history and what I was able and not able to do.
I then received a letter from DWP saying that I had been placed in the ESA WRAG (work related activity group) and that I would be called for an work-focused interview.
The dreaded brown envelope arrived with my appointment shortly before Christmas. I thought the tone of the letter was unnecessarily harsh – stating that as I was in the WRAG I had to attend work-focused interviews and that I may also have to carry out work-related activities if the adviser thought that it would help me to be able to return to work in the future. The letter also stated that if I didn’t attend then my benefits may be reduced – termed a sanction.
I went along with some trepidation this morning – I was lucky though, I saw a sympathetic adviser who had recently been off work on sick leave and was understanding and empathic about the problems relating to returning to work if you are unwell.
Points that were made to me:
- Whilst on IB “supported permitted work” is allowed to continue indefinitely but the rules for ESA WRAG are slightly different. Generally speaking you can only do “supported permitted work” for 52 weeks but this is on an individual basis and can be extended if the adviser feels that this is appropriate.
- In my case I will have to attend the JobCentrePlus every 3 months to see how I am.
- Apparently most people in the ESA WRAG group are automatically put into the Work Programme. There is heavy pressure on the JobCentrePlus staff to take this course of action.
- It is extremely difficult to get transferred from the WRAG group to the Support group. I was told the fact that I was doing work – albeit “supported permitted work” meant that my chances of getting the decision changed were virtually nil – I had already proved that I was able to work.
- I was told that the rules could be changed at any point and that in the future my case could be looked at differently.
I explained to the adviser that working on the Involvement Register meant working in a therapeutic and supportive environment. I emphasised that people on the IR are often not well and are therefore treated with understanding and care. I said that there was no pressure to attend or turn up to any work and indeed that even if you feel unwell at the last minute it is accepted and understood that you won’t go. I also said that if you work one week for a few hours it is not necessarily assumed that you will be well enough the following week to work. I said that on a personal level being on the IR had increased my confidence and that I had been able to learn new skills – all done at a pace that suited me. I mentioned that I had been involved in running focus groups and that I had also in doing work from home such as reading and commenting on reports etc – which could be done quietly and in my own time.
The adviser felt that in light of the positive experience (including learning new skills) I was getting from the Involvement Register that he would not put me into the Work Programme. I do think the fact that I was able to state how supported I felt on the IR and that I was learning new skills really helped. I also strongly stressed the supportive nature of working on the IR and how understanding people are if you are having an “off day”.
I think, unfortunately, that a lot will depend upon the JobCentrePlus and the nature and understanding of the adviser that you see but I hope that some of the points I have mentioned will be of some help.