'Bogus' new DWP tests slammed

There are concerns some unemployed could risk benefits if they don't complete psychometric tests - tests some claim to be bogus. The tests were first piloted at an Essex job centre before spreading to the North East.

But the Department of Work and Pensions denies the tests are compulsory, or that benefits are at risk if testing is not completed.

Total fake?

The psychometric tests are the brain child of Downing Street's Behavioural Insights Team - colloquially known as the 'Nudge Unit' - which is directly connected to the Cabinet Office. The unit has devised this 'My Strengths' questionnaire.

But there are claims that whatever answers given can make little difference to the end test result. The Guardian claims an unemployed single mother was told her £71 jobseekers' allowance could be stopped if she didn't complete the questionnaire.

"Treating people as guinea-pigs," writes blogger Steve Walker, who linked the DWP questionnaire with the Nudge Unit, "by deceiving them to make them 'jump through hoops' is bad enough. But benefit claimants are forced to take this 'test' under the threat of losing their benefits if they fail to do so."

Your results!

However the DWP denies anyone has lost benefits from failing to complete the test. "The exercise," said a DWP spokesperson in an emailed statement, "is intended to help jobseekers identify their strengths, and we have had extremely positive feedback from both jobseekers and their advisers."

Additionally the DWP claims US trials have shown that the tests can "improve subjectively reported well-being and reduce anxiety and depression."

But judge for yourself. This Jobcentreplus letter suggests the DWP is threatening to cut benefits if its My Skills questionnaire isn't filled in.

In his blog, Steve Walker rebuts any idea that such testing is of support to the jobless, and may cause genuine hardship. "Since this test has been used for some time in at least three regions and is now being rolled out in others, the number of people penalised in this way could be substantial."

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