The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was introduced in October 2008 to assess entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

All new applicants for ESA must undertake a WCA to determine their eligibility for the benefit.  In addition, the government is using the WCA process to reassess all claimants who are currently in receipt of incapacity benefits to determine their eligibility for ESA.

ERSA’s stance

Schemes such as the Work Programme rely on the WCA process delivering accurate assessments of an individual’s eligibilty to ESA. This is important in order to ensure that only those people who do have the ability to gain employment through the scheme are referred by Jobcentre Plus and that those with health conditions that mean that they will not be able to find employment receive the appropriate level of support.

In addition, accurate Work Capability Assessments are important to ensure that providers of employment services have access to appropriate resources to provide the intensive employment support that may be required to help people into work.  It is not currently clear that this is happening as effectively as it could be, with implications for both those with health conditions and welfare to work providers.

There are a number of changes to the WCA that ERSA wishes to see including:

  • Make sure that the WCA is right first time and that inappropriate referrals are avoided.
  • Further research is needed to assess the extent to which the outcomes of the WCA could be impacting on the Work Programme model.
  • Providers and DWP should work in partnership to ensure a smoother referral to the Work Programme after a WCA.
  • There is a clear need for improved information flows so that Work Programme providers better understand why a decision has been reached and what limitations a person might have.
  • Consideration should be given to suspending a Work Programme provider’s obligation to continue working with a jobseeker who has lodged an appeal in regards to their WCA.

Further information can be found on our Policy Briefing on the Work Capability Assessment.