3.3.1 Individual Responsibility Plan and Stacking Activities

Revised on: September 26, 2022

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 can provide to help the person to participate. The IRP is developed by the participant with their WFSSS/WFPS to:

  • Describe the participant's responsibilities, activity requirements and authorized support services.
  • Keep them moving toward independence.
  • Document the action steps the participant has agreed to do. This is essential to holding the participant responsible for their participation.
  • Direct the participant to find and accept employment
  • Describe DSHS responsibilities to document which support services will be provided.
  • Describes what happens if the participant doesn't follow through with program requirements. When is an IRP done?

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

  • Has been determined eligible for WorkFirst and has completed a comprehensive evaluation (using the Pathway Development Tool), and needs to be assigned an engagement pathway/services.
  • Has an eligibility evaluation and, there are any changes to the family's situation.
  • 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 them continually participating).
  • Has updated a comprehensive evaluation, screening, or assessment which provides recommendations for a new pathway or service.
  • Has disclosed, or there is an indication, that they are involved with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) 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 participant goes off WorkFirst, an IRP is no longer required to access services or support services.

NOTE: participants who don't have  Washington Apple Health due to citizenship verification requirements and who have an activity requirement that is dependent on  Washington Apple Health coverage aren't required to participate in these activities until  Washington Apple Health eligibility is established. Until  Washington Apple Health coverage is established, these participants 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 WFHB 6.3.5 - How do we treat participants with medical issues who do not have Washington Apple Health. How to write an IRP?

We build an IRP by talking to the participant about their family’s circumstances. We use the Pathway Development Tool to support this discussion, whether completed as part of the comprehensive evaluation or social service assessment process. The engagement pathways noted in WFHB and the stacking activities strategy in WFHB 3.3.1 can help with determining what activities may be best for the participant, while maximizing countable participation. 

Conversations with the participant are very important, as they help build IRPs that are relevant to their family’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.

When appropriate, the WFPS/WFSSS can create or update the IRP while the participant is meeting with a WorkFirst partner.  The WorkFirst partner can then print the IRP for the participant’s record and signature and must document in eJAS that the client signed a copy of the IRP. . If there are confidential items in the IRP, the partner can only print the non-confidential portion of the IRP. The WFPS/WFSSS must still mail the full IRP to the client.

Some families may also be involved with Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) 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 participant's IRP.

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

How to build an IRP:

Involve the participant

Give a clear picture of the goal of financial independence for the family and WorkFirst program will do to support this goal. 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 participant's goal, also take into consideration:

  • What was discovered during the comprehensive evaluation and, where necessary, subsequent assessment?
  • Are there 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:

  • Take the family’s circumstances and participant’s interests into consideration.
  • Frame work as a goal of participation.
  • Use the IRP to document support services.
  • Build participation expectations using the hours of activities that add up to full-time participation (32-40 hours), when appropriate.

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 participant knows the specific details about their activities.

Use action steps

Use the IRP to give the participant a step-by-step explanation of what is expected of them and what supports are available. Include:

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

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

In addition, non-participation must be reported immediately. ESD uses eJAS to send an electronic message to the WFPS/WFSSS when the participant fails to attend as directed. ESD staff sometimes refers 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 WFPS/WFSSS must immediately begin the sanction process by sending the ACES letter 0085-01 for non-participation.

The WFPS/WFSSS includes all activities that meet the participation requirements in the IRP and track participation, even those that aren't 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 isn't available, using a standard form with a release of information. The participant submits the form to the WFPS/WFSSS. Does sanction status require a special IRP?

An participant 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 their assigned activities. If a participant enters sanction status, the IRP should reflect the activities they failed to do, without good cause.

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

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

  • The IRP is available in eJAS and can be read and reviewed by ESD staff and others who work with the person and have eJAS access.
  • When meeting with the participant in person, both the WFPS/WFSSS and the participant sign the IRP and a copy is provided so the person knows what action steps to follow.  If updating the IRP with the participant virtually, the WFPS/WFSSS will go over the IRP with the client and mail them a copy of the IRP for their records.  The WFPS/WFSSS must document the client agreed to the IRP and that they mailed a copy of the IRP to the participant. Stacked Services

Stacking services requires the participant 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 participant 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 participant’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 participant will participate. In the few cases that eJAS does not provide the template language to be used, the WFPS/WFSSS includes the following information on the IRP:

  • The start and end dates of the activities
  • The date and time the participant 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 they can't attend as required
  • What support services and the child care the program can provide Special Records

To be effective, the participant'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 participant information, called 'Special Records', with increased protection. Only DSHS staff are able to view the notes written in these categories (see WFHB 1.6.4).

When developing an IRP that includes information on a Special Records topic, It is important to:

  • Develop/create the IRP under "Special Record" section,
  • Document actions in the matching note type, and
  • Discuss with participant how sharing the information with other partners or contractors may provide better services. If the participant 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:

  1. Develops the IRP based on the conversation with the participant, the stacking strategy, recommendations from the comprehensive evaluation, the information in eJAS, and observations. 
    1. Includes employment, other income, and issue resolution goals.
    2. Discusses options with the participant.
    3. Writes a sequential, step-by-step plan for achieving the participant'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 participant will be doing, and
      3. Any actions needed to prepare for the activity (like making child care or transportation arrangements).
  2. Documents support services made available the participant (like child care, or transportation).
  3. If meeting in person, has the participant sign the IRP, and provides a copy.
    1. If the IRP is done over the phone, mails a copy to the participant.
    2. If the IRP is done over the phone while the participant is meeting in person with a WorkFirst partner, the partner may print the IRP, obtain the participant’s signature and provide a copy to the participant. The signed original IRP would remain in the partner’s participant file. The WFPS/WFSSS must still mail a copy of the IRP to the participant.
  4. Documents that the IRP has been done, that you explained the requirements of the IRP to the participant, any referrals made, and enter the activities in eJAS. Document that the IRP was mailed if you mail the IRP to the participant. See WFHB 1.6.


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