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The "Individual Responsibility Plan": Whose Plan Is This Anyway?

Catchphrases are catchy. They're made up to sell ideas. What's the idea the welfare dept. is trying to sell you? They're trying to sell the illusion that you have some kind of control over your own life. Meanwhile all along you're going to their work readiness classes/seminars/assesments and not having any say in planning your own future. If by some unfortunate chance your plans do not agree with theirs, you may find yourself locking horns with "the department". This can be the beginning of the end for many people, because they do play rough, and they often cheat. The dept. cares nothing about or for any individual client. They have one IRP for every client, and that is:

    2) Learn to fill out a job application
    3) Finish the classes.
    4) Get out there and make at least 5 job contacts a day (this varies from state to state, we're sure).
    5) Accept anything that is offered from the private sector or employment security, regardless of your true capabilities, goals, or personal committments.

There are alot of laws written to provide opportunities for welfare recipients based on need. They relate to vocational training, self employment, and payment for necessary supplies and transportation. We have found, from personal experience, several that have been ignored, refused and denied. The purpose of the IRP has been defined legally by the state legislature here in our state, and most likely in yours as well. Here in WA state, the IRP is defined as:

After an assessment of employability and support services available, this information is incorporated into individual responsibility plan (IRP) components. This process is supposed to be a joint decision-making process between the Department and the recipient. The IRP contains the components, the components’ requirements, and support services, and is subject to periodic review to ensure the IRP meets the recipient’s needs. The purpose of an individual responsibility plan (IRP) is twofold. It is intended to set forth both participation in WorkFirst components and the services DSHS will provide to enable the person to participate. WAC 388-310-0700(1). In developing the IRP's components, the Department and the recipient “will work together in the development and decision-making process for component assignment.” WAC 388-310-0700 (1998 Supp.). The IRP includes, inter alia, (1) a WorkFirst component, (2) the component’s requirements, and (3) services the department has determined are necessary for the person to participate in the component, including direct component cost funding and support services. WAC 388-310-0700(3) . The department will review the IRP as necessary to “ensure that the plan continues to meet the person’s employability needs.” WAC 388-310-0700(4) .
WAC stands for "Washington Administrative Code". Every state has them. State administrative codes are rules that are made to guide state agencies in administering the state statutes, so the codes are lower in rank than the statutes. Sometimes there's a conflict between a code and a statute, as there is in our state with the code that refers clients to a protective payee for non-compliance in the workfare program. The statute says nothing about that, only that a client should be referred to protective payee if definite physical neglect has been established . We are currently challenging the state about that conflict..

The best advice we here at the WRAP can offer is the following:

    Become familiar with your state's welfare laws and administrative codes
    Don't sign any IRP contracts unless you agree with them completely and are sure that the dept. has provided all information and services that are guaranteed to you as a client. Any witholding of info and/or services that state law says you qualify for should be legally challenged on the basis of discrimination or incompetence.

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