At the start of September, the government announced it would be using ‘attitude tests’ to assess claimants’ attitudes towards work and their ‘behavioral norms’. This test is in fact a survey – or rather data mining exercise – and would take place in 27 Jobcentres, targeting 27,000 claimants. It is supposed to record the effects on people of signing on every week versus every fortnight. In other words, it is designed to find out what kind of person deserves more hassle from the Jobcentre, based on their attitude.
These surveys are completely unethical. Attempting to classify people according to their feelings about work is being used to stigmatise and pathologize certain claimants. The tests are part of the DWP’s efforts to pretend that unemployment and a low wage economy are a result of individuals’ bad attitudes, rather than a deliberate policy. Esther McVey talks about ‘psychological resistance to work’. The test assesses people’s attitude to work through just 20 widely varying and unrelated questions, placing claimants into in the following four bizarre rigid categories:
1 Willing but nervous Jobseeker
2 Eager Jobseeker
3 Ambivalent Claimants with few barriers
4 Other Jobseekers
Here at Boycott Workfare we always try to keep on top of these events and find out what people’s rights are when each new shameful and wasteful tax payer funded scheme is rolled out by the DWP and the welfare to work industry. So the guidelines – your rights – regarding the Claimant Segmentation Survey scheme are as follows.
If you have made a new claim, or are signing on as your claim continues then it is important that you know you do not have to take part in this ‘attitude test’ at all.
These are the facts:
- If you are asked to agree to take part in the Claimant Segmentation Survey you can disagree to take part (see picture ) – it is an entirely voluntary survey.
- Refusal to take part or answer will not affect your benefits in any way: you cannot get sanctioned for refusing to answer any of the test questions or for refusing to take part in this test [Link 3]:
“There is no obligation to answer these questions and it has no bearing on your entitlement to benefits whatsoever.”
- Your advisor has to ask for your consent before going through the questions, because they ‘are collecting additional information beyond what is necessary for the claims process for the purposes of research’.
If, as is likely, your Job Centre Advisor chooses to ignore this fact and does not say the above to you – as they should do – and starts the test whilst beginning to ask you questions regardless, you do not have have to answer them at all.
- All you have to say is: I prefer not to answer.
You will still be part of the trial-run of weekly versus fortnightly sign ons: the information recorded about you will be just what your advisor thinks of you (their ‘views on the claimant’).
The survey is voluntary. But as Esther McVey makes clear in her interview with the Telegraph, in the future, people’s ‘attitudes’ to work may be used to determine whether or not they are sent on workfare. The survey will allow Jobcentres to identify people ‘less mentally prepared for life at work’ as targets for punitive measures. It is
“likely to be used to select candidates for the work programme, under which claimants have to work in order to receive benefits. It will also be used to recruit to a new scheme obliging the long-term unemployed to spend 35 hours a week at the Jobcentre as they learn to write cover letters and sit interviews.”
Remember – always check if you are ever unsure about why or what you are being asked in the Jobcentre and for what reason you are being asked it. It might be an idea to say: ‘Is this for the segmentation survey? If so I don’t agree to take part.’ It is up to you whether you take part in this survey or not, it is entirely voluntary. Given the way you may have and continue to be treated by your Jobcentre, sanctioned, sent on workfare, scapegoated by politicians and now targeted for a two year benefit freeze and pre-payment cards by the government, perhaps the question should be, if you are asked to take part in this survey why on earth would you?
Boycott Workfare and others have consistently called on the British Psychological Society to challenge the use of ‘psychometrics’ and ‘psychological surveys’ and ‘attitude profiling’ to scapegoat and coerce claimants. And we do so again.