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DWP proposals to scrap the Work Capability Assessment

In 'Transforming Support: The Health and Disability White Paper' the government outlines its proposals for closing the disability employment gap including reforms to the benefits system.

The DWP's new Health and Disability White Paper ‘Transforming Support’ outlines  the government’s next steps to close the disability employment gap, fulfilling their commitment to remove some of the barriers to work and to help more disabled people to start, stay and succeed at work. It follows consultation with disabled people, employers, carers, charities and other organisations.

The White Paper proposes to end the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) in UC and remove the concept and status of having (or being treated as having) a limited capability for work (LCW) or limited capability for work related activity (LCWRA). It is hoped that by removing the link between being classified as unable to work and entitlement to financial assistance, that those who are able to work are supported to do so without the fear of losing benefits.

In place of the current system, the DWP are proposing a ‘Health Element’ in UC for those on any rate or component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and more personalised levels of conditionality whereby work coaches decide what work-related requirements each claimant should have. Being entitled to PIP/ the ‘Health Element’ will not exempt someone from having work-related requirements.

The earliest these proposals could be implemented is 2026.

The DWP are also going to start:

  • Testing the idea of sharing benefit assessment reports with disabled people before a decision is made on their claim, “offering them the opportunity to clarify evidence so that we can make the right decision as early as possible”.
  • Moving to an IT system that will be able to record all assessments, including those carried out by telephone and on video, if requested by the claimant.
  • Testing how to match people’s primary health condition to an assessor who specialises in that condition.

Many disability related charities have been calling for the WCA to be reviewed / scrapped as the WCA regime is problematic and assessments often have a negative impact on the claimant’s health. The charities have also made demands for a system that supports those with health conditions to make the move into work rather, than sanctioning them when they struggle to do so.

However many commentators believe that the proposal, as it stands, fail to do this.

The main concerns with these proposals include:

  • That the WCA and PIP assessments currently measure different things. And unless the PIP criteria are reviewed and expanded, many people who would be found (or treated as having) a LCWRA will not be awarded any PIP and will therefore not receive the additional financial support they require.
  • The fact that there are already delays in getting a PIP decision, which may worsen as the move to the Health Element being dependent on an award of PIP is likely to increase the number of claims made.
  • Whether work coaches will have the time and skills needed to set appropriate work-related requirements for those with a health condition or disability.
  • Decisions regarding discretionary work-related requirements do not carry the same right of appeal when compared to WCAs.
  • There may be an increase in the number of sanctions as some claimants fail to comply with inappropriate work-related requirements.
  • The effectiveness of sanctions as an incentive to move into work, and the fact hat sanctions often affect those with mental health problems, leaving some in destitution.
  • There is no mention of the work allowance which, for those without children, is linked to having LCW or LCWRA.
  • This is yet another benefit change affecting those with a health condition who have had to deal with numerous changes since 2008 when ESA started to replace Incapacity Benefit.
  • It is unclear what would happen to New-Style ESA – although the DWP do say that they are committed to retaining a health and sickness contributory benefit in the future system.

Click here for Transforming Support: The Health and Disability White Paper, published 16th March 2023

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