UK

DWP Accused Of Giving 'Fake And Patronising' Psychometric Tests To Jobseekers

30/04/2013 14:15 BST

A psychometric test given to jobseekers in parts of England, seemingly to help them find their "signature strengths", has been labelled "patronising" after it transpired it gives the same results no matter what answers are given.

The test, devised by a government unit, is comprised of 48 statements, which applicants are asked to grade from 'very much like me' to 'very much unlike me.'

Jobseekers have reportedly been told they must take the test or face losing their benefits, however the DWP denies the tests are mandatory.

Included are statements such as "I never go out of my way to visit museums," "I have taken frequent stands in the face of strong opposition" and "I have not created anything of beauty in the last year."

However whether you are a budding Van-Gogh or a museum-snubbing rebel, the results of the test are the same.

The page that greets you informs you that you are fair, curious about the world, find many things fascinating, that you love learning and that you are an original thinker. The job centre then advises "that you use each of your strengths in a new way every day for at least a week."

The test, first piloted in an Essex job centre before being rolled out to Middlesbrough, came under scrutiny after one blogger noticed it gave him the same 'personality' whatever he answered.

Although the Department of Work and Pensions confirmed to the Huffington Post UK that the test is not mandatory, a letter posted online from the blogger who first exposed the story suggests otherwise, and instructs the recipient to take the test, followed with the line 'Failure to comply with this direction may result in loss of benefit.'

The test was devised by the government's behavioural insight or 'nudge' unit which draws on insights from academic research in behavioural economics and psychology, to apply them to public policy making.

The DWP said trials in the US have shown that it can improve subjectively reported well-being and reduce anxiety and depression.

They say that the test was so effective in Essex that when used alongside other aides, the number leaving benefits improved by over 10% and Middlesborough specifically asked for it to be installed in its own job centre.

However the chief executive of Amber group, a charity which helps disadvantaged unemployed young people to gain the motivation and skills they need to get a job, told the Huffington Post UK that the test was "patronising", that young people will see through it, and that it will backfire on the DWP.

Charles Drew said: "They are dealing with unemployed young people who already know their failings. You can't simply fool people into building self esteem. If young people know they are unsociable and answer truthfully, they will see through it.

"I think it is patronising, it will backfire and the individuals will know they are being given stock answers.

"Having said that, I wouldn't advise giving people a psychometric test which then tells them something demotivating. It's counter productive whichever way you stack it.

"I personally don't like psychometric tests at all because they are very dependent on how you feel on the day. They merely give an indication of what you are feeling, not who you are as a person."

A DWP spokesperson said: "The exercise is intended to help jobseekers identify their strengths, and we have had extremely positive feedback from both jobseekers and their advisers - it is right that we use every tool we have to help jobseekers who want to work find a job.”