A final word
We'll be following up on all of this over the coming days and weeks and clarifying changes to the WCA as they become clearer.
But having read the comments below, we'd just like to clarify that what the DWP appear to be saying is that if you are currently in the support group for ESA or the LCWRA group for UC then you will never be assessed again unless you report a change in your condition or you are suspected of fraud.
The only exception to this is people who have LCWRA/support group status because of pregnancy or cancer treatment, as these are expected to be short-term.
If you are migrated from ESA to UC in the future, this won't make a difference because you are not reassessed as part of the migration process.
We don't know what affect the proposed abolition of the WCA might have on all of this. But that is a Conservative proposal which is an awfully long way from becoming a reality and it may well not survive first contact with an incoming government. It's definitely not something to lose sleep over for a good few years.
In the meantime, after all the menace and rumour in the media over recent weeks, we hope this allows many of our readers to feel a little reassured tonight.
Most people with LCWRA will never face a WCA reassessment again
The DWP response to the WCA consultation says that most people who have been assessed as having limited capability for work-related activity will never have to be assessed again.
The DWP say
. . . we will bring forward a new offer - a Chance to Work Guarantee for existing claimants on UC and ESA with LCWRA. This change will be effective from 2025, at the same time as WCA changes are introduced. This change will in effect abolish the WCA for the vast majority of this group, bringing forward a key element of our White Paper proposals and giving people the confidence to try work.
9. These changes will mean that almost all people who are currently assessed as having LCWRA will never face a WCA reassessment again. Reassessments will only take place under very limited circumstances, which are:
- When a claimant reports a change of circumstances in their health condition;
- If a claimant has been awarded LCWRA for pregnancy risk, or cancer treatment where the prognosis for recovery is expected to be short-term;
- If a claimant has been declared as having LCWRA under the new risk provisions; and
- In cases of suspected fraud.
10. For the overwhelming majority of existing UC claimants, this is a guarantee that they will not be reassessed if they try work, and it does not work out. ESA claimants undertaking permitted work will also not be reassessed. Therefore, for both groups, we will remove the barrier that trying work may mean they lose their LCWRA entitlement
DWP response to the WCA consultation published
The DWP response to the WCA consultation has now been published. They received 1,348 responses, which appear to have been overwhelmingly negative.
No changes will be made to:
Coping with social engagement
DWP say most existing claimants will not be affected
The DWP say in their press release that the new changes will not be introduced until 2025 and that most existing claimants will not be affected:
"These changes will not affect existing claimants whose circumstances remain the same, reflecting the need to ensure a continuity of service for them, and will mean that these claimants will not lose money as a result of the changes."
Elsewhere, they add:
- Under these changes, most existing claimants on health benefits will not need to be re-assessed with a new Work Capability Assessment. Re-assessments will only take place under limited circumstances, which are:
When a claimant reports a change of circumstances in their health condition;
If a claimant has been awarded LCWRA for pregnancy risk, or cancer treatment where the prognosis for recovery is expected to be short-term;
In cases of suspected fraud.
Changes to the substantial risk rule
In their consultation on WCA changes in September, the DWP suggested that the substantial risk rule could be changed as follows:
Alter the rule so that it would not apply where a person could take part in tailored or a minimal level of work preparation activity and/or where reasonable adjustments could be put in place to enable that person to engage with work preparation.
This appears to be what the DWP is now planning to do.
The current points for 'Getting about' are shown below. These are to be reduced although we don't know what to yet:
15. Getting about
15 (a) Cannot get to any place outside the claimant’s home with which the claimant is familiar. 15 points
15 (b) Is unable to get to a specified place with which the claimant is familiar, without being accompanied by another person 9 points
15 (c) Is unable to get to a specified place with which the claimant is unfamiliar without being accompanied by another person. 6 points
15 (d) None of the above apply. 0 points
The removed mobilising descriptors
It appears that the DWP plan to stop the following mobilising descriptors allowing claimants to be places in the support/LCWRA group. These descriptors will still score 15 points for the purposes of limited capability for work, but will not allow access to the support/LCWRA group:
1. Mobilising unaided by another person with or without a walking stick, manual wheelchair or other aid if such aid is normally, or could reasonably be, worn or used.
(i) mobilise more than 50 metres on level ground without stopping in order to avoid significant discomfort or exhaustion
(ii) repeatedly mobilise 50 metres within a reasonable timescale because of significant discomfort or exhaustion.
Changes to the WCA revealed
A DWP press release has set out the changes they plan to make to the WCA:
- Remove the ‘Mobilising’ part of the assessment that currently places people into a group where no work preparation is required – this will reflect that many of the claimants with these issues in the modern world of work will be able to undertake some work or work preparation with the right support
- Amend the regulations that determine whether mental health issues are assessed as putting claimants at ‘Substantial Risk’ if they are required to undertake any level of work preparation - these amendments will realign the regulations with the original intention of applying only in exceptional circumstances, whilst still protecting and safeguarding the most vulnerable
- Reduce the points awarded for some of the Limited Capability for Work (LCW) ‘getting about’ descriptors, reflecting the rise of flexible and home working opportunities in modern workplaces.
Over 90% of people denied LCWRA will not move into work
Although the Chancellor announced today that there will be changes to the WCA, we don't know which of the changes set out in their consultation in September they have decided to adopt.
What we do know, however, thanks to the Office for Budget responsibility. is that the claims that the changes are to help people move into work are bogus.
The OBR has published its estimate of the changes to the incapacity caseload as a result of WCA reform.
By 2028/29 they estimate that there will be:
315,000 fewer people in the UC LCWRA group
56,000 fewer in the ESA support group
Making a total of 371,000 fewer people who get incapacity benefits without having any work related conditions.
But at the same time, they estimate that as a result there will be:
290,000 more people on LCW UC
51,000 more people in the ESA WRAG
Making a total increase of 342,000 (possibly some rounding) who have conditions applied to their benefit.
So, the OBR are expecting around 29,000 people, just 8% of claimants who are denied LCWRA/support group, to actually move off benefits as a result. The other 92% will stay on incapacity benefits but just be around £400 a month worse off and subject to sanctions.
Thanks to Tom Pollard for tweeting about this.
Half a million people to be offered mental health treatment
The chancellor says they will halve the flow of people signed off work with no work search requirements:
Over 180,000 more people will be helped through the Universal Support programme and nearly 500,000 people will be offered treatment for mental health conditions and employment support.
Over the forecast period, the OBR judge these measures will more than halve the flow of people who are signed off work with no work search requirements.
At the same time we’ll provide a further £1.3 billion of funding to offer extra help to the 300,000 people who have been unemployed for over a year without any sickness or disability.
But we will ask for something in return.
If, after 18 months of intensive support, jobseekers have not found a job, we’ll roll out a programme requiring them to take part in mandatory work placements to increase their skills and improve their employability.
And if they choose not to engage with the work search process for six months, we will close their case and stop their benefits.
Taken together with the labour supply measures I have announced in the spring, the OBR say we will increase the number of people in work by around 200,000 at the end of the forecast period, permanently increasing the size of the economy.
WCA to be 'reformed'
The chancellor confirmed that changes are to be made to the work capability assessment (WCA) and to the fit note process, though no further details were given about the precise changes to the WCA.
The Chancellor said:
Every year we sign off over 100,000 people onto benefits with no requirement to look for work, because of sickness or disability.
That waste of potential is wrong economically and wrong morally.
So, with the secretary of state for work and pensions, I announced our back to work plan.
We will reform the fit note process so that treatment rather than time off becomes the default.
We will reform the work capability assessment to reflect greater flexibility and availability of homeworking after the pandemic.
And we’ll spend £1.3 billion over the next 5 years to help nearly 700,000 people with health conditions find jobs.
LCWRA element of Universal Credit (UC) from April 2024
We've calculated the 6.7% uprating for the LCWRA element of Universal Credit for next April as follows:
LCWRA element of UC up from £390.06 by £26.13 to £416.19
PIP rates from April 2024
We've calculated the 6.7% uprating for PIP for next April as follows:
Daily living standard rate up from £68.10 by £4.56 to £72.66
Daily living enhanced rate up from £101.75 by £6.82 to £108.57
Mobility standard rate up from £26.90 by £1.80 to £28.70
Mobility enhanced rate up from £71.00 by £4.76 to £75.76
Pensions triple lock maintained
The Chancellor announced that from April 24th "we will increase the full new state pension by 8.5% to £221.20 a week, worth up to £900 more a year."
Local Housing Allowance to be unfrozen
The Chancellor announced that he will "increase the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to the 30th percentile of local market rents. This will give 1.6 million households an average of £800 of support."
Benefits to be uprated by September CPI
Good news on uprating. The chancellor has confirmed that in April 2024 benefits will be uprated by September's Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rate of inflation, which stood at 6.7%. There had been speculation that benefits would be uprated by the lower October rate.
Autumn statement updates
The Chancellor delivers his Autumn statement at around 12.30pm on 22 November 2023.
Benefits and Work will be providing updates on this page on how the Autumn statement affects claimants, as information becomes available.
In the meantime, heavy hints are being dropped by the government about what may be in it.
Claimants in LCWRA may have to look for work from home
A number of media outlets are suggesting that claimants who are in the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (LCWRA) group will be required to look for work they can do at home or lose the LCWRA element, worth £4,680 a year.
This is likely to be a follow up on the consultation on changes to the work capability assessment (WCA), which took place in September.
If this does go ahead, it is unlikely to happen before the next general election and so may be cancelled by an incoming government.
Cut in benefits uprating
Benefits are normally uprated in April by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rate for the previous September.
But there have been numerous suggestions that benefits may be uprated by the lower CPI rate for October 2023 of 4.7% rather than the September rate which was higher at 6.7%.
This may apply to UC and ESA but may not apply to PIP.
Back To Work Plan
We already know quite a lot about the ‘Back to Work’ plan which involves tougher sanctions and mandatory work placements for some UC claimants. More details may be released as part of the Autumn statement.