2 February 2011

The DWP have yet again changed the timetable for the start of moving people from incapacity benefit to employment and support allowance.

Back in December we reported that, for the first five weeks of migration, only one third of the intended total of 10,000 assessments a week would be carried out.  This was to have risen to two thirds for the next five weeks before going up to 10,000 a week.

However, in a statement on 25 January, Chris Grayling, informed the house of commons that although the migration will still start on 28 February,  just 1,000 claimants a week will be assessed in March.

In April, however, the numbers will go up to 7,000 a week before rising to a very challenging 11,000 a week in May.

Benefits and Work understands that ESA50 forms for the new, harsher work capability assessment will not be issued until 14 March.  This strongly suggests that the first 2,000 claimants, at least, to be migrated will be assessed using the current WCA.

Meanwhile Atos are still busily recruiting doctors to carry out the assessments.  They are currently advertising on the British Medical Journal website with details of open days around the UK as they try to find doctors with as little as two years experience to to become disability assessment experts.

The full statement from Grayling is as follows:

“The trial for the reassessment of incapacity benefit customers in Aberdeen and Burnley has been under way since October last year. Over 1,000 customers have now been informed of the outcome of their reassessment.

“The trial has tested a new process providing a number of additional support measures for customers as they go through their reassessment journey. At key points, Jobcentre Plus staff telephone customers to inform them about what is happening and to ensure they have access to appropriate help and advice. Customers also have the opportunity to discuss the decision on their case with a decision maker, putting into practice one of the key findings in Professor Harrington's recent review of the work capability assessment. These additional support measures have been welcomed by staff and customers.

“We want to ensure that the experience gained in the trial is shared across all of the centres that will be dealing with the reassessment of incapacity benefit claimants before we move to the full, national roll-out in April. So we intend to have a limited, introductory phase in every centre carried out in the same controlledconditions as Burnley and Aberdeen. This will ensure the process remains robust and we continue to learn valuable lessons as more customers are involved in more areas across the country.

“At the end of February, we will begin this introductory phase. Letters will be sent to 1,000 customers a week nationally, marking the commencement of their reassessment. So a total of around 300 people will be assessed in each reassessment centre over this period. In April, we will step up the implementation and increase the number of cases to around 7,000 a week. From May we will be processing the full case load of around 11,000 cases per week. This steady ramp up of activity will ensure that Jobcentre Plus and its partners are ready and can deal with the volume of cases as it builds. Customers' reactions to the changes will be closely monitored and lessons applied.

“Our plans are on track. Reassessment remains a key priority for this Government. We cannot allow people to be trapped on benefits, but we will ensure people get the benefits and support that they are entitled to.”


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