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Work focused interviews / work related activity

Sometimes carers who are in receipt of Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance (in the Work Related Activity Group) may be asked to take part in work focused interviews (WFIs) and undertake work related activity (WRA).


This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.

 

There are rules around how often carers have to take part in WFIs, and whether carers have to undertake WRA. These rules are outlined below.

If you feel that you have been incorrectly asked to take part in a WFI or incorrectly asked to undertake WRA, then you can challenge this. You can amend and use one of our template letters to help you.

If you want to ask for the WFI to be deferred to a later date, waived altogether or for it to be carried out at home, then you can again use one of our template letters to help you.

Note: When we say ‘carer’ in this information we mean:

  • A person in receipt of Carer’s Allowance; or
  • A person who has an underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance; or
  • A person who is claiming Income Support because they are regularly and substantially engaged in caring for a person who receives the middle or the higher rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Attendance Allowance, or Armed Forces Independence Payment; or
  • A person claiming Income Support whilst the person they care for awaits the outcome of a claim for DLA, PIP, Attendance Allowance or Armed Forces Independence Payment and 26 weeks have not passed since the date of their claim.

There will be carers who do not come under the definitions above, and as such the normal rules that apply to each benefit around taking part in WFIs and undertaking WRA will apply. If this applies to you then you may have to take part in WFIs at the discretion of the Jobcentre Plus and engage in WRA when required.


What is a work focused interview (WFI)?

A WFI is a meeting between you and a Work Programme personal adviser or work coach, normally taking place at your local Jobcentre Plus, although it can take place over the telephone, or at your home in exceptional circumstances. It's always good to check that any proposed meeting (especially a subsequent meeting) is a WFI if it is not made clear to you at the time.

The aim of the WFI is to look at your prospects of obtaining work and to identify any activities, training or educational opportunities that may assist with this. At this meeting it is likely you will be offered further appointments and support to help prepare you for work, which you can accept if you wish.

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How often do I need to take part in a work focused interview (WFI)?

This will depend on your particular circumstances and what benefit you receive.

Note: If you are a member of a couple then the main claimant will be the one we are referring to when we mention the person 'receiving’ the benefit. If your partner is the main claimant then please see: ‘Carers whose partner is receiving Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance‘.

Carers receiving Income Support who are not also lone parents of children under 5 years old

The circumstances in which you will have to take part in a WFI are as follows:

  • At the start of your claim for Income Support; or
  • If Carer’s Allowance ends; or
  • When you start or end part time work; or
  • When you finish training; or
  • When you turn 18; or
  • In any other case after 3 years since the last time you attended.

If you are over the qualifying age for state pension credit and still claiming Income Support then there is no WFI requirement.

Note: State pension credit age for a woman is the age she would reach state pension age and for a man is the age he would reach state pension age if he was a woman.

Carers receiving Income Support who are also lone parents of children under 5 years old

Normally a lone parent of a child under 5 years old can be required to take part in a WFI without limit – for example the Jobcentre Plus could ask you to take part in a WFI every two weeks. However, if you are also a carer, you will only have to attend a WFI once every six months. This rule applies until your youngest child reaches the age of 5 . After this time the rules that will apply are those for 'carers receiving Income Support who are not also lone parents of children under 5 years old’ - see above.

This rule is commonly misunderstood by Jobcentre Plus staff, and carers who are lone parents of children under 5 years old are often told they have to take part in frequent WFI’s, when they do not.

Also, you do not have to take part in a WFI if you are a lone parent of a child under 5 years old and you are also under 18 and/or you have a child under the age of one.

During the WFI your adviser will then normally draw up an action plan for you, and this should list what actions and steps you would be willing to take to improve and enhance your prospects of getting a job.

Carers receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you are claiming ESA and are in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) there is no set ruling for how often you can be asked to atake part in a WFI.

However, you do not have to take part in any WFIs in the WRAG if you are at least the qualifying age for state pension credit (see above for definition) and/or you have a child under the age of one.

If you are claiming ESA and are in the Support Group then you will not have to take part in WFIs.

Carers whose partner is receiving Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

When the main claimant has been continuously entitled to Income Support or ESA for at least 26 weeks or more you, as their partner, will have to take part in one WFI.

However, you do not have to take part in any WFI’s as the partner of the main claimant if:

  • You have a child under the age of one; or
  • If you are under 18 or over the qualifying age for state pension credit (see above for definition); or
  • If you receive a “specified” benefit in your own right. The “specified” benefits are Income Support, income based Jobseekers Allowance (but not a couple claim), Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Carer's Allowance. If you receive a "specified" benefit in your own right, you may have your own work focused requirements to comply with.

Note: The rules for WFIs under Jobseekers Allowance and Universal Credit are different. Contact the Carers UK Adviceline for further information.

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What do I have to do at a work focused interview (WFI)?

You have to take part in the WFI at the stated time, and participate in it by answering questions about any previous employment, training, skills and qualifications that you may have, as well as discussing any caring and/or childcare responsibilities, and any medical needs that will impact on you returning to work.

Your work coach is likely to suggest that regular meetings and support can be offered around preparing you for work. It is at this point that you need to be really clear in declining this support if you feel that now is not the right time for you to prepare for work because of the demands of your caring role.

If you accept the support you will then be asked to take part as and when directed and possibly partake in some work related activity. Your work coach should let you know that further participation is voluntary. If you decline the support then you should not be called again more often than the rules advise for your particular circumstances. 

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If I have to have a work focused interview (WFI) do I have to take part in any work related activity (WRA)?

Sometimes those who have to undertake  WFIs also have to take part in WRA. WRA can include looking for work, undertaking training, or taking part in the Work Programme. However not everyone has to take part in WRA.

Carers receiving Income Support (including those who are also lone parents of children under 5 years old) will not have to take part in any WRA unless they choose to.

Carers receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the Work Related Activity Group will not have to take part in any WRA if they also receive Carer’s Allowance or get the Carer Premium included in their ESA award, unless they choose to.

Carers receiving ESA in the Support Group will not have to take part in any WRA, unless they choose to.

Carers whose partner is receiving Income Support or ESA will not have to take part in any WRA, unless they choose to.

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I’ve been told I must attend a work focused interview (WFI) and/or that I must take part in work related activity (WRA), what should I do?

If you receive a letter or telephone call asking you to take part in a WFI or start any WRA, and you feel this is incorrect given the information above, you may want to contact the Jobcentre Plus and challenge this.

You can do this by telephone or by letter. You may want to use one of our template letters to help you.

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If I can’t attend and need to defer / waive / ask for the work focused interview (WFI) to take place in my own home, what should I do?

It is possible for you or your partner to defer or waive a WFI, or to ask for the WFI to take place in your own home.

If you want any of these things to happen then you should contact the Jobcentre Plus as soon as you can in advance of the meeting and explain your circumstances. You can do this by telephone or by letter. You may want to use one of our template letters to help you.

You must show good cause for your request. Good cause may include illness, hospital/healthcare admissions or appointments, bereavements, emergency caring responsibilities or needing more time to set up alternative care for a child or the person you care for.

You cannot appeal a refusal of your request and your benefit may be stopped or reduced if you do not attend without permission.

For a deferment or waiver

A Jobcentre Plus officer may determine that a WFI can be deferred or waived where it wouldn’t be, in their opinion, of assistance to you or appropriate in the circumstances.

For a home visit

A Jobcentre Plus officer may determine that a WFI is to take place in your own home where it would, in their opinion, be unreasonable to expect you to attend elsewhere because your personal circumstances are such that attending elsewhere would cause you undue inconvenience or endanger your health.

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What happens if I fail to attend a work focused interview (WFI) when correctly invited?

If you fail to take part in a WFI when it is correct that you do so, and you cannot show good cause, you may be sanctioned by having your Income Support/ESA  stopped for a certain period or paid at a reduced rate. For Income Support the Jobcentre might treat you as if you have not made a claim for the benefit.  For further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

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Template letters

We have produced some template letters which you can download and use. When you download the template letters they will appear in a Word document. If you have any issues downloading them contact the Carers UK Adviceline. You will need to add details of your personal circumstances and edit the letter to suit your own situation (the main sections which need editing are in red).

Draft letters regarding work focused interviews (WFIs):

For carers receiving Income Support who are not also lone parents of children under 5 years old who have been asked to attend a WFI outside of the specified circumstances

For carers receiving Income Support who are also lone parents of children under 5 years old who have been asked to attend WFIs more than every six months

For carers whose partner is receiving Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance as the main claimant who have been asked to attend a WFI outside of the specified circumstances

For carers (or partners) who want to request a deferment or waiver of a WFI, or who want to request for a WFI to be carried out in their own home

Draft letters regarding work related activity (WRA):

For carers receiving Income Support (including those who are lone parents of children under 5 years old) who have been asked to undertake WRA

For carers receiving Employment and Support Allowance in the Work Related Activity Group who have been asked to undertake WRA

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