3.3.1 Individual Responsibility Plan and Stacking Activities

Revised August 5, 2020

Legal References:

The 3.3 IRP and Stacking Strategy section has two separate sub-sections: What is an IRP?

An Individual Responsibility Plan (IRP) is a working document that clearly defines the specific activities, timeframes and expectations for each WorkFirst participating family member. The IRP may also indicate what support services WorkFirst will provide to help the person to participate. The IRP is developed by the parent with her or his WFSSS/WFPS to:

  • Describe the individual's responsibilities, activity requirements and authorized support services.
  • Keep him or her moving toward independence.
  • Document the action steps the individual has agreed to do. This is essential to holding the individual responsible for her or his participation.
  • Direct the individual to find and accept employment
  • Describe DSHS responsibilities to document which support services will be provided.
  • Describe for the individual the consequences for not meeting the requirements. When is an IRP done?

Create or update an individual's IRP when the individual:

  • Has been determined eligible for WorkFirst and he or she is required to complete the comprehensive evaluation.
  • Has an eligibility evaluation, if there are any changes.
  • Must apply for Washington Apple Health through the Health Benefit Exchange to access needed health care coverage (such as chemical dependency treatment). (See WAH Application IRP for suggested IRP language)
  • Has a change that affects her or his existing IRP (like homelessness or family violence issues).
  • Has new activities such as training or services approved.
  • Gets a job. (This may include other services such as retention services or needed support services.)
  • Is within two weeks of completing a component, to keep her or him continually participating.
  • Has completed a comprehensive evaluation or screening/evaluation, which provides recommendations for a pathway or service.
  • Has disclosed, or there is an indication, that they are involved with Children's Administration (CA) and are required to do activities like counseling or treatment.

In two parent families, both parents must have an IRP (unless one qualifies for, and chooses to take an exemption). Once a parent goes off WorkFirst, an IRP is no longer required to access services or support services.

NOTE: Parents who do not have  Washington Apple Health due to citizenship verification requirements and who have an activity requirement that is dependent on  Washington Apple Health coverage are not required to participate in these activities until  Washington Apple Health eligibility is established. Until  Washington Apple Health coverage is established, these parents will be coded with the component code 'CV'. This is an indicator code only and has no IRP or monitoring requirements.

For more information, please refer to section 6.3.5- How do we treat parents with medical issues who do not have Washington Apple Health. How to write an IRP?

We build an IRP by talking to the individual about her or his family circumstances, using the stacking strategy in 3.3.1 to maximize countable participation and, when a comprehensive evaluation is done, by reviewing the results. Conversations with the parent are very important, as it will help us build the initial IRP and subsequent IRPs that are relevant to the individual's situation.

The IRP spells out what needs to be done to get the person employed as quickly as possible, and then break those tasks into action steps. The comprehensive evaluation and eJAS notes types also helps indicate issues that may need assessment, referrals and resolution.

When appropriate, the WFSSS/WFPScan create or update the IRP while the parent is meeting with a WorkFirst partner.  The WorkFirst partner can then print the IRP for the parent’s record and signature. If there are confidential items in the IRP, the partner will only be able to print the non-confidential portion of the IRP. The WFPS/WFSSS will need to mail the full IRP to the client.

Some families may also be involved with CA and required to do activities like counseling or treatment to help keep their families together. It is critical to take these activities into consideration when developing the parent's IRP.

As shown in the chart below, there are key techniques to create an effective IRP.

How to build an IRP:

Involve the individual

Give a clear picture of the goal of financial independence for the family and what the program will do to support their efforts. Talk about what the individual plans to do after employment to get a better job and move up the wage ladder. Are the plans achievable? If so, how?

Focus on the goal

The goal, for most families, is independence from WorkFirst. Getting a job or increasing employment or wages is the path. When setting the individual's goal, also take into consideration:

  • What was discovered during the comprehensive evaluation.
  • Whether there are short-term issues to be resolved for faster progress (like homelessness)
  • What supports or other income will be available while seeking work or once working

Discuss the options

Use all the available information and the stacking strategy to develop the IRP and create a step-by-step plan. As you do this:

  • Deliver a strong message of work as a goal of participation,
  • Use the IRP to document support services, and
  • Build participation expectations using the hours of activities that add up to full-time participation (32-40 hours) and that take the person's circumstances into consideration.

Write the IRP

Write the IRP in the first person (like "I will report to my Community Jobs assignment.")

The templates for each activity are to be included in the IRP so the individual knows the specific details about their activities.

Use action steps

Use the IRP to give the individual a step-by-step explanation of what she or he is supposed to do and what supports are available. Include:

  • Whom to contact,
  • When to report to an activity, and
  • What her or his responsibilities are. How to monitor IRPs

WFSSS/WFPS will monitor IRPs closely to make sure that everyone is engaged in full-time activities and making progress. Service providers are required to verify participation and progress on a monthly basis to the WFSSS/WFPS.

In addition, non-participation will be reported immediately. ESD uses eJAS to send an electronic message to the WFSSS/WFPS when the participant fails to attend as directed. ESD staff will sometimes refer the participant back to the WFPS as part of their "Continuous Activity Planning" process and document in eJAS notes if the participant is failing to participate as directed. The WFSSS/WFPS must immediately begin the sanction process by sending the ACES letter 0085-01 for non-participation.

The WFSSS/WFPS includes all activities that meet the participation requirements in the IRP and track participation, even those that are not approved by the program. For example, a participant may work 20 hours a week and go to school 20 hours and meet the participation requirements even if the training cannot be approved or supported with support services or child care. This participation must be tracked to ensure progress is being made and that the person is attending.

There are two types of participation verification:

  1. Automated monthly verification by provider through eJAS, where available.
  2. Written monthly verification signed by the provider where eJAS is not available, using a standard form with a release of information. The individual submits the form to the WFSSS/WFPS. Does sanction status require a special IRP?

An individual in sanction status does not require a special "sanction IRP" just because they have entered sanction. Everyone is required to have a current IRP based upon his or her activities. If a family member enters sanction status, the IRP should reflect the activities they failed to do, without good cause.

When the person agrees to cure his or her sanction, the IRP must be updated to include current dates and any new activities or components need to be changed to meet the individual's new circumstances. How IRP helps with coordination?

The IRP is a valuable tool for the individual, the WFSSS/WFPS, and others working with the person. It ensures that everyone is clear about the individual's responsibilities, requirements, and supports.

  • The IRP is available in eJAS and can be read and reviewed by Employment Security Department staff and others who work with the person and have eJAS access.
  • Both the WFSSS/WFPS and the individual sign the IRP and a copy is given to him or her so the person knows what action steps to follow. Stacked Services

Stacking services requires the individual to engage in more than one activity at a time - perhaps working with different providers to access services. We "stack" (or combine) activities to make sure the person moves from welfare to self-sustaining work as soon as possible. It also helps an individual to build new strengths while resolving issues in her or his life.

Activities are combined to add up to full-time participation (32-40 hours). See WFHB 1.2.3 for additional information about adding an additional three hours (preferably core activity hours) in the parent’s IRP when possible. 

eJAS provides language (templates) that can be put on the IRP for most activities and service providers, with the number of hours the individual will participate. In the few cases that eJAS does not provide the template language to be used, the WFPS/WFSSS will include the following information on the IRP:

  • The start and end dates of the activities
  • The date and time the individual must report to the service provider
  • The specific participation requirements, including the number of days per week the person must attend and hours of participation
  • The number to call if the she or he cannot attend as required
  • What support services and the child care the program can provide Special Records

To be effective, the individual's IRP must spell out, in detail, what the person will do to become self-sufficient. All personal information is confidential under state and federal law. In eJAS, there are also four categories of client information, called 'Special Records', with increased protection. Only DSHS staff are able to view the notes written in these categories. These categories contain information about:

  • Mental Health;
  • Family Violence;
  • Chemical Dependency, and
  • HIV/AIDS/STD* (Optional category).

* Please note that DSHS staff is not required to screen for HIV/AIDS/STD. This is an optional category to be used when a parent voluntarily provides information about HIV/AIDS/STD issues that could interfere with WorkFirst work activities.

For these four topics in eJAS, it is important to:

  • Develop/create the IRP under "Special Record" section,
  • Document actions in the matching note type, and
  • Discuss with parent how sharing the information with other partners or contractors may provide better services. If the parent agrees to share the information then you must get a signed consent form (DSHS 14-012) to share this information or invite the person to discuss the matter(s) directly with the service provider they are going to be working with. eJAS coding

When creating an IRP, do the following in eJAS:

  • Enter activity component code on the eJAS component/IRP screen.
  • Enter the participation requirements using the templates for the activities and for each of the contractor codes. IRP - Step-by-step guide

To develop an IRP, the WFSSS/WFPS will:

  1. Develop the IRP based on the conversation with the individual, the stacking strategy, recommendations from the comprehensive evaluation, the information in eJAS, and observations. Review the results of any comprehensive evaluation and consult with WorkFirst partners or Social Service Specialist if appropriate to determine the best plan for the person.
    1. Include employment, other income, and issue resolution goals.
    2. Discuss options with the individual.
    3. Write a sequential, step-by-step plan for achieving the individual's goals, including:
      1. Where to go, when, and who to see,
      2. Start and end date for each activity and a description of what the individual will be doing, and
      3. Any actions needed to prepare for the activity (like making child care or transportation arrangements).
  2. Document the services made available to her or him by DSHS (like child care, or transportation).
  3. Have the individual sign the IRP, and make a copy for him or her. If the IRP is done over the phone, then a copy is mailed to the individual. If the IRP is done over the phone while the parent is meeting with a WorkFirst partner, the partner may print the IRP, obtain the parent’s signature and provide a copy to the parent. The signed original IRP would remain in the partner’s parent file.
  4. Document that the IRP has been done, that you explained the requirements of the IRP to the individual, any referrals made, and enter the activities in eJAS. Document that the IRP was mailed if you mail the IRP to the individual.


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