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WashingtonLawHelp.orgWashington LawHelp

WorkFirst: Individual Responsibility Plans (IRPs)

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
Read this in:
Russian / Pусский

Read this if you have to do Workfirst. #7134EN


Please Note:

Read this only if you live in the state of Washington.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Should I read this? +

Yes, if you are in WorkFirst. We explain how you can get the best possible IRP for yourself.

Do I have to do WorkFirst? +

Maybe not. Read Questions and Answers about WorkFirst to find out more.

*Due to the pandemic, DSHS had temporarily stopped requiring WorkFirst activities if you got TANF. But starting September 1, 2021, you have to meet your WorkFirst participation requirements again. 



What is an Individual Responsibility Plan (IRP)? +

It is an agreement between you and DSHS. It makes a plan for moving you into paid work as soon as possible. An IRP says: 

  • what you must do to work, look for work, or get ready for work through the WorkFirst program
  • how DSHS will help you meet these goals

You and your WorkFirst case manager at DSHS must sign the IRP when it is first written and any time you change it. It should be in your primary language. You should keep a signed copy with your other DSHS papers.


What does an IRP say? +

It must state:

  • Information about your WorkFirst activities. Most people must take part in 32-40 hours a week. If it does not say how many hours a week you must do something, ask your case manager to add it.
  • Any requirements related to the WorkFirst activity. Examples: learning English, getting counseling, or other treatment.
  • Support services you need. Examples: helping you pay for childcare or transportation. Read DSHS Support Services for WorkFirst Participants.
  • Who to contact if you cannot get to an activity.
  • What happens if you do not do an activity or have unexcused absences. Read WorkFirst Sanctions.
  • You agree to get and keep a job as soon as possible.

What kinds of activities will be in my IRP? +

Generally, first you go to orientation. They will evaluate your skills and needs.

Next, you do the Job Search process. This can take up to 12 weeks. It may include training for needed skills for a job paying more than entry-level wages. (You might be temporarily “deferred,” which means excused, from job search).

You will also look for work now. You must keep a record of all job contacts. By the end of the first 4 weeks, a caseworker will decide if you should stay in Job Search.

It has been 12 weeks. I still have not found a job. +

Your case manager will evaluate you again. Then you and your case manager will change your IRP. You should add new activities to help you become employable.

*If DSHS refuses to make changes to “accommodate” a physical or mental disability and insists you go to Job Search, contact a legal services office right away! (Read DSHS Help for People with Disabilities: Necessary Supplemental Accommodations and How WorkFirst can help Survivors of Family Violence.)


What other activities could I do? +

The fastest way to get you working could be a training activity. Examples of these:

  • ESL, GED, or literacy classes.
  • Vocational education for up to 12 months for a degree or certificate.  
  • Unpaid work for a non-profit or government association for up to 6 months.
  • Temporary “Community Jobs.” The State pays you to work at a job.
  • Community service.
  • On-the-job training.
  • Working with DVR (Department of Vocational Rehabilitation).
  • Full-time seasonal worker training.
  • Parenting and life skills education.
  • Volunteer work at a licensed day care, preschool, or elementary school.
  • In-patient drug and alcohol treatment.
  • Activities to help you with homelessness, mental health, or domestic violence.
  • Paid work leading to more employability.

Do I have to take any job offer? +

No. You do not have to accept a job that:

  • Provides no workers comp.
  • Is available due to a strike.
  • Interferes with your religion.
  • Violates health or safety standards.
  • Does not pay at least minimum wage.
  • Does not provide the same benefits for WorkFirst employees as for other workers.


How can I get the best IRP for me? +

You have the right to help make your IRP. You and your case manager should work together in choosing activities and services. Tell your case manager about:

  • Any specific plans you have.
  • What you think you need, such as help with child care and transportation.
  • Any physical, mental health, or domestic violence issues making WorkFirst hard. If the IRP does not help, call a legal services office.

*You and your case manager should think about your situation in deciding how many hours you must do WorkFirst activities.


When do we review my IRP? +

Any time you or your case manager feels you should. It should change as needed. 

I do not agree with my IRP. +

Suggest some changes. If the case manager will not make them, do not sign the IRP. Ask to speak with a supervisor. If that does not fix it, ask for a hearing. 

When and how do I ask for a hearing? +

Do it within 90 days of the date the IRP was finalized. Call your local DSHS office or write the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH):

Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH)
P.O. Box 42488
Olympia, WA 98504

If it is an emergency, ask them to hold the hearing as soon as possible. Call OAH at (360) 664-8717. Ask for an “expedited” hearing. Read Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing.

Get Legal Help +

If you could not fix the problem with your IRP on your own, get legal help before DSHS puts you into sanctions. Read WorkFirst Sanctions.


Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

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Last Review and Update: Sep 16, 2021