Press release

Publication of DWP research report 634: An Exploratory Comparison of the Interactions Between Advisers and Younger and Older Clients During Work Focused Interviews

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Exploratory comparison of interactions between personal advisers and older and younger clients during work focused interviews (WFIs).

This report presents findings from an exploratory comparison of interactions between personal advisers and older and younger clients during work focused interviews (WFIs). The study was commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and conducted by researchers at the Social Policy Research Unit and Department of Sociology at the University of York. The WFI recordings were selected from a dataset that had been collected for a larger study (Drew et al., 2010).

As a result of this research more training is being introduced to help advisers understand the detailed issues faced by some people over the age of 50.

The main findings include:

Evidence of overall variation by client age came predominantly in the New Jobseeker Interviews. In interviews with older clients, advisers:

  • were more likely to agree fewer job goals.
  • conducted fewer assisted job searches and job submissions .
  • tend to give ‘softer’ explanations of the requirement to evidence job search activity.

In New Jobseeker Interviews and initial IB WFIs there was some evidence to suggest that individual advisers modified their approaches when meeting older or younger clients. Differences observed included:

  • weekly job search activity requirements more minimal for JSA older clients;
  • a stronger balance of emphasis on return to work when giving initial explanations of WFIs to younger IB clients.
  • Return to work treated as a less definite possibility for older IB clients.

Where age related differences were apparent, these tended to emerge at age 25 years and above, or with clients aged 40 and above rather than a clear distinction above/below age 50 years.

The report identified a number of policy implications:

  • Consider whether there are aspects of the WFI process which might be appropriately and effectively tailored to different clients and aspects which should remain consistent;
  • Equip advisers with accessible information about age discrimination legislation and referral channels to more specialist sources of advice and guidance;
  • Consider the concept of the ‘older client’ and ways in which this can be meaningfully defined and applied.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The DWP report 633 An Exploratory Comparison of the Interactions Between Advisers and Younger and Older Clients During Work Focused Interviews” by Annie Irvine and Professor Roy Sainsbury, Social Policy Research Unit and Professor Paul Drew and Dr Merran Toerien , Department of Sociology, University of York is published today as part of the DWP Research Report series. A copy of the report and summary of the research can be downloaded from the Department’s website at http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/
  2. The study used the method of Conversation Analysis to explore a set of video/audio recordings of WFIs taking place in JCP offices. These recordings were selected from the large corpus of audio-visual recordings collected by the York University researchers. The subset of data used in the present study included 28 recordings with people aged 50 and above, covering a wide range of WFI types, and a comparison sample of 28 recordings with people under the age of 50. The comparison sample comprised three WFI types selected to match those which featured most commonly among the 50+ sample: initial IB WFIs under the Pathways to Work programme, New Jobseeker Interviews and subsequent New Deal WFIs for JSA claimants.