The file the DWP doesn’t want you to see

Over the last couple of days I’ve uncovered how the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is conducting trials that force unemployed people to take a meaningless online ‘test’ (which gives you a personality profile even if you click right through it without answering any questions). The test is accompanied by a letter that tells the respondent that he or she must implement the 5 ‘identified’ ‘strengths’, which bear no relation to their personality, in a different way every day ‘for at least one week’.

Treating people as guinea-pigs by deceiving them to make them ‘jump through hoops’ is bad enough. But benefit claimants are forced to take this ‘test’ under the threat of losing their benefits if they fail to do so.

Until last night, a visit to the root directory of the site revealed a number of files but no other personality tests. Even though the site is named to appear to be a specialist behavioural science site, it is a sham set up by a ‘Behavioural Insight Team’ advising the government on ‘1984’-like ways to control people’s behaviour.

Until last night, entering the URL ‘behaviourlibrary.com’ would have shown you the following:


However, if you visit it now, this is what you’ll see:


Clearly there’s something here that the DWP and its advisors would prefer you not to see. But what is it?

Most of the files on the root directory would be available in other locations, but one in particular isn’t – a PowerPoint file that outlines the methodology of the test. This file – a presentation on ways to influence behaviour, especially of benefit claimants, contains a number of images, including one of a bailiff removing a television from someone’s house.

In the context of the threat of ‘sanction’ – the removal of benefits that people rely on to make ends meet – these images take on a particularly sinister aspect. Even if there could be an innocent explanation for the images, the manner in which the government is using coercion to make them undergo a meaningless ‘test’ for the purposes of psychological manipulation is extremely worrying. The fact that access to the site has now been blocked (presumably because someone realised it was known to the public) suggests that the government does not want the contents of this file to be known, whatever the precise reason.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the matter. I stored a copy of this PowerPoint file on Dropbox, so you can read it and decide for yourself. If you would like to see the file, please visit the links below – and spread the word so that others can see exactly what the government is trying to hide.

The DWP’s ‘behavioural control’ presentation.

The DWP’s ‘behavioural control’ presentation in movie format.


  1. Having taken a look at the file I think it may be a presentation on how small changes to the way processes are presented can have large effects on behaviour. The court example is one where a persons name is added to an automated text alert to increase the likelyhood the recipient will pay. There are some sinister elements to this and the survey is most definitely flawed and based on crappy psychology but I believe it is designed to give the jobseeker an “ego boost” making them more likely to have some confidence in an interview especially for the stock “What are your strengths? and “What are your weaknesses?” questions you will inevitably get from middle managers. There are clues in there that point to lack of ability with Powerpoint too.

    1. I agree in part. Forcing people to take a test that gives results regardless of the answers entered (or if no answers are entered at all) is pointless – and putting them under the stress of the threat of losing their benefits if they don’t answer a 48-question ‘test’ is anything but an ego-booster.

      1. It’s not an ego boost that jobseekers need – it’s real jobs.

      2. Sorry for replying here . I have another letter that might be very interesting for you and for all citizens. Please tell me how to send it to you the whole story and I will let you know everything. I am planning anyway to denounce what it happened to me. Thank you.

  2. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    My reblog of ‘FAKE DWP ‘test’ reveals sinister govt ‘psy-war’ provoked so much comment and controversy on my own site yesterday that I feel bound to reblog the follow-up as well. There was heated discussion about whether a DWP personality profile test hides a sinister intent; this article clarifies what is known and points the way to a DWP PowerPoint presentation, from which you may draw your own conclusions.

  3. I can’t find anything else on this. No claimants I have asked have ever been asked to take this test or anything similar. Can you please clarify at what stage are people asked to take this test and how are they informed of it?

    1. It looks like it depends where you are – this was rolled out as a pilot in 3 areas (including Teesside) and is apparently now being extended across the country. It may not have reached your area yet.

      The lady in question is 29 and has only had 1 temporary Christmas job, so she’s definitely long-term unemployed. She received a letter from the local Jobcentre Plus with details of the actions required (including the test) and a warning that failure to complete them would risk benefit sanction.

      If you take a look at http://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/a-tale-of-two-maggies/ you’ll see excerpts from the JCP letter and attachments.

  4. It sounds like a lot of assumptions being made here…. I love a good sinister plot as much as the next person, but shouldn’t we be flushing out the actual reasons behind this before drawing conclusions?

    1. The reasons are in the documentation, although dressed up in nice language – and they’re reflected very clearly in the behaviour: ‘encourage’ people off benefits when there are no jobs for most of them to go to.

      1. Teesside, Essex and somewhere else I can’t remember at the moment were the first trial locations, but I believe it’s already in the wider roll-out phase.

  5. What I find really worrying is the fact the questionnaire is a make-up f many other questionaries. for example- Gardner’s emotional intelligence. The problem with this is, firstly all questionnaires go through a robust testing and factor analysis which establishes its internal consistancy and also reliability and validity. This is so to make sure the questionnaires measures what it is meant to measure, and applies to the target population it is meant for, and that no harm will be felt as a consequence. When this is established it is then able to be used. This is a very long process.
    However if you ‘borrow’ quesitons from questionnaires and make your own- there will be NO validity, internal consistancy and reliability, as it is not the individual questions that matter but te sum of all together in that specific quesitonnaire.
    This ‘questionniare’ is seriously unethical and unreliable- If I was anyone filling this in I would note down the effects of it on my wellbeing, and file a compliant, might even look towards negligence.
    If I am wrong that there was robust testing to protect people, then where is the research? everyone is allowed access to this…

    1. Quite. I’m glad you pointed this out. Long ago I worked temporarily for a market research company but I’d forgotten all the ins and outs which you so clearly delineate. It may well be that many of the questionnaires issued by the government/DWP etc are just such unacceptable cobbled-together documents and worth knowing for any redress one might have.

  6. They’ll have a difficult job boosting my ego or improving my motivation. I have no goals. My goal is to stay alive each day. That’s it.

  7. On a lighter note: I’d pay good money to see guinea pigs jumping through hoops! (I used to think that guinea pigs came to be used for experiments because they are sweet, docile creatures, but I have been told that it was because, like us, they don’t make Vit. C, so early investigators into scurvy used them at lot, and in fact guinea pigs can be vicious little blighters. Friends had one they kept instead of a lawn-mower; it lived semi-wild in the garden and would take a finger off if you got too close, like that rabbit in the Holy Grail movie).
    Hmmm… I seem to have strayed off topic a bit.
    Keep up the good work. Excellent blog. I recommend it to anyone who’ll listen.

  8. I read the ppt. I don’t get it, what’s your smoking gun?

    All I see is a description of a problem – people having negative experiences like bailiffs when they fall to pay fines – and the suggestion of using randomised trials to identify things that can help stop that happening?

    (I can’t persuade myself to worry that someone fixed a broken website which was showing a directory listing containing documents that are publicly accessible elsewhere!)

    1. They’re not all publicly accessible. The part of the document referring to measures involving the unemployed is referring to a test that claimants are being forced to take under threat of sanction – but which is absolutely meaningless (it provides a personality ‘profile’ even if you click through all the questions without answering any.

      The other linked posts show a letter giving a semi-literate claimant 2 days to complete:

      – a 48-question test (which generates a random result)
      – a series of very involved questions that have to be answered for no less than 15 companies
      – visiting, registering with and applying for at least one job via 3 employment agencies

      The high workload and short timescale is psychological torture – and a major component of this, by design, is a ‘test’ that is meaningless.

      That should be worth anyone’s attention.

      1. Perhaps not random in the literal sense, but meaningless and unrelated to the actual nature of the person completing the test without question!

  9. The form of coercive persuasion discussed in one of the white papers, has been up and running for the past two years in an utterly horrifying and unethical manner at the Breast Screening Unit of the Medway NHS Foundation Trust.

    The hospital has been sending local women official letters ordering them to attend an unsolicited appointment to be x-rayed. Should they fail to attend, further bullying letters with new appointments are sent.

    A tear-off slip with the letter allows conscripts to ask for the appointment to be rescheduled, but coercively fails to provide any possibility of opting out.

    The letter is accompanied by a propaganda leaflet written a in condescending and authoritarian manner and smothered with pictures of pretty pink flowers.

    This leaflet glosses over the substantial dangers of the tests, stating just that it might “find cancers that are treated, but which may not otherwise have been found during your lifetime.” In other words subjecting women needlessly to surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and massive psychological trauma.

    More terrifying still, there is vast medical evidence, which has been strongly endorsed by the BMJ, that mammography is actually triggering cancers in thousands of women – particularly in those with high-risk genetic profiles (for which they are NOT screened beforehand). Brief summary of the risks here:

    Should a target return the slip with a note stating she wishes to opt out, her response is ignored, and a further summons to submit to the x-rays is sent to her.

    If the woman then telephones asking them to stop making unsolicited appointments and to inform them that she is opting out because the test is dangerous, SHE WILL BE BULLIED by the staff in the screening unit and pressurised again to comply.

    If she holds out against this, she will be told that they “can not” remove her name from the “register” unless she signs a legal disclaimer revoking any rights she may have should she ever become a victim of medical negligence.

    Should she decline to sign away her rights and return this form when it is sent out to her…

    …then the next time the screening van is in the area, she will recieve another summons, and the entire circus of harrassment and intimidation will begin again.

    When all this is focused on the emotive area of cancer, this form of coercion, involving a dangerous procedure (which always leaves *permanent* tissue damage) is in total opposition to any notion of INFORMED CONSENT or meaningful human rights.

    No consent even seems to be required any more for the government to involve itself in frying womens body tissues.

    So it is not only benefits claimants but other UK citizens who are being treated like little children through (ab)use of the ‘nudge’ method, and it is already happening.

    These appallingly abusive practices need to be exposed and resisted as widely as possible – because it is already literally a matter of life and death.

  10. This is nothing new… the government are just catching up with the psychological tactics we’ve been using in sales & marketing for years now. Read “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Cialdini if you want to learn more. There is a lot of pseudo science in NLP. but bits of it are effective, I can testify to that from my own use of it.

  11. @ elspeth: The government didn’t make this test at all, a US organisation called VIX did. When the government asked for permission to use it, VIX actually refused, explaining that it hadn’t received scientific validation. So it did go through all the proper tests and everything, and that still didn’t stop the ConDems from going ahead and doing what they wanted anyway. Make of that what you will.

  12. Thank you for quick thinking, and saving the doc in a place where we can still see it!

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