Government responds to Litchfield WCA review

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The government has published its response to the fourth Independent Review into the Work Capability Assessment, undertaken last year by Dr Litchfield. The review follows the first three Independent Reviews from Professor Harrington and makes a series of recommendations around better implementation, improving effectiveness and identifying mental health needs through the WCA.

The response from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has accepted or accepted with caveats all but one of the 32 recommendations made in the latest  Review and also agrees that DWP is currently working to implement six remaining recommendations from previous Harrington reviews.

Of specific interest to ERSA members government agrees with Dr Litchfield’s assessment in the Review that a previous recommendation to share information about WCA outcomes with Work Programme providers has not been implemented and should be addressed as a priority. DWP has accepted this recommendation ‘subject to the outcome of further feasibility work’, and outlines in their response that DWP is currently investigating what information would be most useful to providers and how such information could be shared as part of that. The findings from the feasibility work being undertaken by the DWP will be used to help inform future decisions on ‘how or if to proceed with the recommendation’.

Commenting on the government response Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of ERSA said:

“ERSA welcomes government’s response to the Litchfield Review and in particular their recognition that sharing information contained within the Work Capability Assessment with Work Programme providers will prevent unnecessary duplication of assessment. This will allow for providers to better support people with specific health needs towards and into work.

“ERSA is committed to supporting the DWP with its feasibility work and has highlighted the importance of this recommendation in its submission to the recent Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into WCA and ESA.”

Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into ESA and WCA


The Work and Pensions Select Committee has announced that it will be holding an inquiry into Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments as part of its inquiry the Committee is currently taking evidence from stakeholders. ERSA is keen to respond to the committee and is therefore asking members to submit their views to inform the ERSA submission to the Select Committee.

By way of background the Committee inquiry into ESA and WCA will look at  delivery of  the WCA, its effectiveness, the process and criteria for procuring new providers of the WCA, and the appeals process. The inquiry follows four independent reviews commissioned by DWP, additional reports from interest bodies and intense media speculation over the effectiveness of the review and the future of the provision.

A number of key issues have been identified for feedback which are set out below. 

Scope of the inquiry

1. The effectiveness of the WCA in indicating whether claimants are fit for work including:

2. The process and criteria for procuring new providers of the WCA

3. The ESA entitlement decision-making process and reconsideration and appeals process

4. The impact of time-limiting contributory ESA and outcomes for people undertaking a WCA assessment

5. The interaction between ESA and Universal Credit implementation

Fourth Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment

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The year four Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), undertaken by Dr Paul Litchfield has announced its recommendations. The Review which follows on from the three previous independent reviews undertaken by Professor Harrington, contains 36 recommendations and an overview of how previous recommendations have been implemented by government.

ERSA has been engaged with the review team throughout its consultation period, making both a direct submission and inviting the team to attend an ERSA Disability Employment Forum to gather evidence and views from members.

Of particular interest and in line with ERSA’s submission to the review,  Dr Litchfield specifically highlighted that the recommendation from the year two Harrington review for greater sharing of information contained within the WCA with Work Programme providers, had yet to gain traction. Litchfield called for government to implement this recommendation as a ’priority’.

In addition to this the review considers ways to make the assessment process more user friendly and better integrate central government decision makers and front line assessment staff, these recommendations include:

  • that the person being assessed can see what is being written during the assessment
  • emphasising the importance of training and experience of assessors particularly in relation to those with mental health issues
  • the involvement of the Cabinet Office behavioural insights team in reviewing all forms and letters related to the WCA
  • implementing a minimum period after a successful appeal before a reassessment can be issued
  • recommending the Department carries out a full impact assessment on an alternative process whereby DWP Decision Makers can address cases without a face to face assessment

The government response to the year Four Review is due in early 2014.

Commenting on the Review, ERSA Chief Executive, Kirsty McHugh said:

“ERSA welcomes the recommendations put forward by Dr Paul Litchfield in the Fourth Annual Review of the Work Capability Assessment

“In particular ERSA is delighted to note the recommendation to implement, as a priority, information sharing with Work Programme providers

“This recommendation first made in the second WCA Review authored by Professor Harrington is a crucial step in better integrating support for people looking to move towards work”