A communication strategy to support the changes to the eligibility rules for Income Support affecting lone parents is currently being implemented.
The strategy has a very clear focus on the need for timely and accurate communications to (1) customers affected by the changes, (2) Jobcentre Plus staff in roles impacted by the changes, and (3) external stakeholders involved in giving accurate advice to customers.
Key objectives of the communications strategy are to ensure that the following audiences receive co-ordinated, timely and tailored messages, as follows:
Existing lone parent customers and those making new or repeat claims to Income Support—understand the changes and how they will be affected
Advisers working with customers—know how the changes will impact on them and their lone parent customers
Stakeholders external to Jobcentre Plus—are clear on these changes and the effect they will have upon them and their customers.
To meet these objectives the strategy includes the following:
Mailshots sent direct on 6 October 2008 to specific lone parent customers, which outline the effect that the changes may have on them, including new requirements for quarterly attendance at work-focused interviews and how their claim to disability premium could be affected (where relevant).
A further mailshot in on 24 November 2008 to lone parents affected, confirming that the changes have been approved by Parliament. This will be supported by local mailshots to offer voluntary interviews 6 weeks prior to the end of the lone parents' Income Support.
Providing lone parent customers with detailed information factsheets that clearly outline the changes for them and the action they may need to take with the support of their adviser.
A leaflet and poster campaign to explain in visual format the steps each lone parent will take as the changes impact them.
Local 'Options and Choices' events for lone parents that explain the changes and offer advice and guidance in preparing for work (these have been in place since April 2008).
Publication of details of the changes on both the DWP and Jobcentre Plus Internet sites.
A range of products available to Jobcentre Plus staff to ensure that they are able to deliver the correct messages to customers including briefings, desk aids, presentations, key messages, links to guidance and supporting articles in internal publications. This also includes roadshows delivered to senior managers to ensure understanding of the changes.
Numerous presentations to key external stakeholders and close engagement with external lone parent voluntary groups.
The same approach is proposed for introduction of Phase 2 of the changes in 2009 and Phase 3 in 2010. However, in spring 2009 we will evaluate the Phase 1 communications and feed these findings into communication plans for the next phases.