The government has begun a consultation on changing the work capability assessment (WCA) to make it much harder to be found to have Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (LCWRA) or to be in the support group of ESA.  Benefits and Work is urging claimants to take part in the consultation, which lasts until 30 October.

The proposals are set out in a document entitled ‘Work Capability Assessment: Activities and Descriptors Consultation’

Any changes would require amendments to primary legislation, which would happen in 2024.  There would also need to be changes to assessment providers’ IT systems, which means the actual introduction of a revised WCA would not happen until 2025.

These proposals are separate from the plan to entirely abolish the WCA from no earlier than 2026/27 for new claimants and 2029 for existing claimants.

Once a new WCA is introduced, any changes would affect new claimants and also existing UC and ESA claimants when their award is reviewed.

The main changes being proposed are to four of the current WCA activities and the vital ‘substantial risk’ rule.

Mobilising
The mobilising descriptor  concerns ‘Mobilising unaided by another person with or without a walking stick, manual wheelchair or other aid’ and also going up or down two steps.

At the moment a person who cannot mobilise more than 50 metres scores 15 points and will also be found to have LCWRA.

The government are suggesting three options for change:

  • remove the Mobilising activity entirely (both LCW and LCWRA)
  • amend the LCWRA Mobilising descriptor to bring it in line with the equivalent descriptor in PIP - replacing 50 metres with 20 metres for both descriptors within the LCWRA activity
  • reduce the points awarded for the LCW Mobilising descriptors.

Absence or loss of bowel/bladder control
At the moment, a claimant who loses control of their bladder or bowel at least once a month will score 15 points and have LCW but will not be found to have LCWRA.  Instead, they will need to show that the loss of control happens once a week to have LCWRA.

The government are suggesting three options for change:

  • remove the Absence or loss of bowel/bladder control (Continence) activity entirely (both LCW and LCWRA)
  • amend the LCWRA Absence or loss of bowel/bladder control (Continence) descriptor so that claimants are required to experience symptoms ‘daily’ rather than ‘weekly’
  • reduce the points awarded for the LCW Absence or loss of bowel/bladder control (Continence) descriptors

Coping with Social Engagement due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder
If you can never engage in social contact, this leads to a score of 15 points, which will also result in you being found to have LCWRA.

The government are suggesting two options for change:

  • remove the Coping with Social Engagement activity entirely (both LCW and LCWRA)
  • reduce the points awarded for LCW descriptors for Coping with Social Engagement

Getting About 
This activity concerns getting to places outside the your home without having someone accompany you.  If you can’t even get to familiar places then you score 15 points and will be found to have LCW.  However, this activity cannot lead to you being found to have LCWRA.

The government are suggesting two options for change:

  • remove the Getting About activity entirely
  • reduce the points awarded for LCW descriptors for Getting About

Substantial risk
The substantial risk rule applies if there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of anyone if you were found not to have LCWRA.   This is often the only way that people with severe mental health conditions, including those at risk of self-harm, can enter the LCWRA group.

The government are suggesting two options for change:

  • Remove the rule entirely, so anyone who is at risk would be placed in the LCW group instead where they may be subject to sanctions.
  • 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.

Cost-cutting
The DWP claim that the changes are intended to take account of the way that the world of work has changed, especially since the pandemic, with more opportunities to work from home.  The logic is that if claimants don’t have to travel or mix with other people then they will be able to manage their health conditions at home whilst also earning a living.

Therefore, they argue, by keeping people in the LCWRA group, where they do not have to prepare for work, they are preventing them from getting the support they need to return to work and thus harming their life-chances.  Or as the DWP put it:

“It is not right that so many people are left without support, and we must not hold people back from opportunity.”

The DWP’s way of giving more people opportunity is to take away the additional £390 a month they receive in the LCWRA group and subjecting them to the threat of sanctions.

Because this proposal is, in reality, a huge and potentially deadly cost-cutting exercise.

If the government simply wanted to help more people attempt to work, they could easily do so just by guaranteeing a safe return to existing levels of benefits for anyone who tried working but was unable to sustain it.  Support could be offered to prepare for work without any threat to benefits.

In addition, many of the proposed cuts will not affect LCWRA.  Instead, they reduce the chances of being found to have LCW.  This means that disabled claimants will simply be treated as ordinary claimants with no protection at all against a savage sanctions regime and will potentially get less, rather than more, support with moving back into work.

Labour to the rescue?
Many commentators are suggesting that these changes will never happen because of the strong probability that Labour will be in power before they are introduced.

But there are big question marks over how willing Labour is to be seen to be supporting sick and disabled claimants.

Moreover, if the Conservatives include any savings from these changes in their spending plans, it places Labour in a difficult position.  If Labour say they will not implement any changes, they will consider themselves obliged to say where they will get the cash from to cover what will now be the additional cost of keeping the WCA as it is.

Taking cash from another budget to cover welfare payments seems likely to be something Labour will be particularly reluctant to do.

Take part in the consultation
Many readers will be extremely sceptical about the value of taking part in a consultation, believing that the DWP will already have made up its mind what it is going to do.

That may be true, but to build any real opposition to measures which could undoubtedly be life-threatening for some claimants, it’s vital that the DWP cannot claim there is broad support for the proposals.  And if there is a sufficiently ferocious response, it may dissuade the DWP for going for the most extreme options it has outlined in the consultation.

Details of the consultation are available from this page:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/work-capability-assessment-activities-and-descriptors

The page includes a link to a very basic online form you can use to respond.  We can’t provide the link, because each one is unique, but you’ll find it immediately under the heading:  Ways to respond.

You can also email your response to:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

There are going to be some virtual events “to seek the views of disabled people and their representatives” and five face-to-face stakeholder events at the following locations:

  • Birmingham - Wednesday 20 September 2023
  • Leeds - Wednesday 27 September 2023
  • Edinburgh - Thursday 5 October 2023
  • Cardiff - Wednesday 11 October 2023
  • London - Wednesday 18 October 2023

There are more details on how to apply to take part under the heading stakeholder events on the consultation page.

We’d be pleased to hear in the comments below from anyone who takes part in the consultation.

Visit our WCA Changes Latest News page for updates on what's happening to the WCA.

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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Thedogmother · 8 months ago
    Here's the thing, we do need as much opposition to these proposals as possible, from all quarters. But, its like trying to fight a forest fire with a single extinguisher, if the fire gets hold nothing will stop it. To say I'm terrified every day of any change is an understatement. I don not see how rule changing and moving goal posts 'cures' us.
    The conditions we suffer from today ,and for decades stay with us regardless of the shambolic utter waste of money this government pours into doing their utmost to eradicate us off the face of the earth. And suffer we do. From our diabolical MH and physical conditions, topped up by the sickening fact we are treated so callously And that the general public swallow every word the dwp tell them that we are scrounging sub humans. I'm tired,sick,sore and so unhappy with my horrible life I'm just being pushed further down the black hole because my government hates me and my ilk  
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      SBlu · 7 months ago
      @Thedogmother Don’t give up - that’s what they want. Strength in numbers and we’re all fighters. Protest! Even if it’s signing a petition or writing to your MP. You can do it - we all must!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Adam · 8 months ago
    This gov is a major substantial risk to my mental and physical health 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Aw · 8 months ago
    I had my PIP review this year & with the announcement that ESA was not being migrated to UC till 2028 I naively thought I could relax for a few years and actually work on my mental health rather than stress every time the letterbox goes & compulsively check B&W/Rightsnet every day. Silly silly me...
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    micksville · 8 months ago
    I'm curious as to where B and W got the calculation that these changes would not come in until 2025? I get the amendments needed to primary legislation in 2024 at next parliament, but that would be early in (that parliament) in 2024. Would it really take almost another year to update assessment companies IT systems and get this proposed new WCA up and running?  What's to say the DWP haven't been working on this for sometime and that might be why, as B and W reported in this news section on 16th January of this year, that the new "dual medical" assessment contracts for both PIP and ESA were delayed as DWP belatedly decided they wanted to develop their own software systems for this, rather than let the assessment companies develop theirs?Is there any particular reason B and W have suggested this timefraame of 2025? Just wondering.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Claire · 8 months ago
      @micksville What happened to the last budget statement saying ESA was staying till 2028 for existing claimants.Now today on a different note apparently sick pensioners are the new single mothers !Costing the taxpayers £70,000 each for their continuing disability,which they can claim for without even working according to the Mail today.The seed is being sown and it’s disgusting,they are deliberately targeting sick and disabled just before pension kicks in so they don’t have to pay out.They’ll use the excuse of natural aging to remove mobility.Be very aware people,gather up all your evidence ready for the fight.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Stiobhan Napier · 8 months ago
    I have just read this shocking news and I can’t believe these extremely irresponsible people that are elected to do good for the people have just signed a death warrant for thousands of very vulnerable individuals,as these MP’s don’t have a clue the horrendous damage they are threatening to people that are totally innocent of how their bodies are, and I can guarantee that if we were 100% fit both mentally and physically, we would jump at the chance of earning nearly £80k a year being an MP,but the difference with us is that we would show empathy when clearly these current MP’s are so out of touch it’s embarrassing!! Just to note,I’m one of those vulnerable people that will find it easy to check out of life if this reduction of £390 actually takes place!! Let’s cut their pay by 50% and then they can cut taxes for the rich!! I really hope that all of us in very difficult circumstances stay safe and fingers crossed those morons think again and do the right thing!!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Claire · 8 months ago
    What people just don’t understand when they glibly say oh you can just work from home is how illness affects people.From getting no sleep due to pain ,strong medication,multiple medications taken through the day all with side effects.Some of these would fell a elephant!Being unable to remain in one position for more than 10 minutes ,needing to lie down frequently and falling asleep.How are you going to keep a job,even if at home?Removing descriptors is despicable and would surely lead to everyone needing a new assessment.Or is this where the unqualified job coaches come in and say NO LCWRA?
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Philip · 8 months ago
      @Claire Your comment is the best I've seem absolutelly spot on that is.If you cant hold down a job outside or at home because of your condition then it dont matter how much they ammend the form nothings changed you still cant work and need support.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Anonymous · 8 months ago
    The government whichever one it might be in the end can bring it on. Both me and my partner are severely disabled me physically her mentally.I have been fighting them since the days of DLA. Me and my partner are both on full rate for everything PIP with ESA support group and disability premiums. Whatever the DWP want to do as always I will take it slap them with it and make them eat it. Bring it DWP.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      A · 7 months ago
      @Anonymous How do you do that?  i don't know how to do that, though my mental health means I can't leave the house now.  I have had depression for many years and think my time will run out/feel guilty for still being depression.  
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Adam · 8 months ago
    All their proposals are against the I’ll and disabled. They are in some descriptors by way of removing them leaving a person and people in society in very real danger.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    frmarcus · 8 months ago
    As always, what is reasonable - however we define it - is in question.  Looking at stats for the outcome of ESA WCAs (I presume same for UC WCA) over a decade, LCWRA/SG has varied considerably (pandemic period aside), and it's unclear why under 50% get this some years yet well over 60% get it others. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    GREENleaf · 8 months ago
    This whole thing terrifies me.  I have spinal injuries and severe and persistent mental health conditions, all diagnosed, all proven.  Just reading this, my suicidal ideation has multiplied.  I had to call Mental Health services yesterday.  I cannot maintain work, or look at computer screens for too long, else I get pyschotic symptoms - becomes unreal.  For me this is the end. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    just · 8 months ago
    Am I wrong in thinking if this was to become law that there would be a form of Transional Protection for Existing Claims.?
    Ie no one at a set date of the legalisation becoming law can be worse off than their current award.
    Logic must prevail as there would be thousands upon thousands of Destitute People having there award and only form of income removed effectively over night.


    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      CC · 7 months ago
      @just its going to be targeted at existing claimants. otherwise they wouldnt get meaningful savings. they already restarted reassessments as part of this process.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Saetana · 8 months ago
      @just That has generally happened with previous benefit changes such as the change from ESA to Universal Credit.  Really hope so as I cannot afford to lose half of my monthly income.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    axwy62 · 8 months ago
    Also, anyone who supports removal of the incontinence activity or amending it to require daily accidents should be forced to have an accident in public to see what it feels like. It is demeaning, undignified and downright cruelty to even think of doing this.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Thedogmother · 8 months ago
      @axwy62 My ibs incontinence renders me unable to get off the floor, I have to lie there in my own mess because I can't sit on the toilet as I pass out with the pain. I can be in the bathroom on the floor for hours on end, each day for weeks on end,if I get three days a month free of that I'm recovering from being exhausted, and the bowel-stomach after pain,if my stomach ulcer and reflux are playing up at the same time I'm like a jelly. Not to mention my other conditions  and my dire MH. May god help us all. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Clockaholic · 8 months ago
      @axwy62 Angie, I know how you feel. I suffer from daily incontinence (amongst other conditions) and rarely go out because of it. I also spend a LOT of time in the toilet. Fortunately when I've had accidents whilst out most people are too polite to say anything, but sadly I have had some nasty comments directed at me and more stony stares that I can remember.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    axwy62 · 8 months ago
    You cannot force someone into a job they cannot do. All you can do is take away all their support so that if they don't kill themselves the job they try out of desperation will kill them instead. Euthanasia in disguise.
    Being sick or disabled is not a lifestyle choice and all those complaining about the scroungers malingering on benefits so that they don't have to work is that everyone is just an accident or an illness away from joining them.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    ClareP · 8 months ago
    Please give your feedback to this consultation. It's very important that the government get feedback on how this will affect us. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      DollyD · 7 months ago
      @ClareP I have submitted my feedback to them via the email address provided. If everyone commenting on here could email them with their concerns before the end of October, that will amount to a lot of comments from disabled individuals themselves. I put my age, family situation and disability at the end of my email. I received an automated email as a reply to show it had been received. You can make your email as short or long as you like. We need to show our concerns in big numbers.  
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      UB40 Rumrunner · 8 months ago
      @ClareP This all needs to be clearly spelt out to. Gov and to Labour politicians immediately. The very suggestion of the proposals are insane. I'd like to know what the views on this would be from professionals like GP's and psychologists. They need to step in and protect their patients from a very high chance of prospective harm. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    axwy62 · 8 months ago
    One point that really worries me is that in each assessment so far the assessor has picked one activity for which it is clear I will meet the support group, assessed that and then stopped so all of the assessment reports appear to show that I only score points for one activity (mobility). I have a feeling that if that activity is now removed altogether, I will instantly be found fit for work and have to jump through all their hoops whilst the appeal goes through. I have a degenerative genetic condition, actually meet four support group criteria and I'm now 61 having had to retire from my teaching job 21 years ago. Even if it was remotely reasonable to make me find a job now, who on earth is going to employ me?

  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Piltdown Boy · 8 months ago
    Now that I am an OAP I no longer claim a legacy benefit. Yet here we ago again with the Tory witch hunt, which is no surprise that it seems aimed at people with mental health conditions. Firstly, under Thatcher they started with the closure of psychiatric hospitals and day hospital care, isolating people already struggling with the stigma of mental health. Then they replaced these with the so called "Care in the Community" which is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Then you have the plethora of welfare reforms designed to screw you into the ground even further. A clever black propoganda campaign by the government and the media whipped up public support to get these 'scroungers and malingerers languishing on benefits back to work. Now they are proposing to put the final screw in the coffin by removing the support group safety net. Not that the DWP or Psychiatric Services offered any practical support or care if you were in this category anyway.

    I have endured severe mental health issues for over 50 years now. In my youth whilst residing in a half-way hostel, we were visited by a delagation of government minsiters who were inspecting the premises with a view to seeing what improvements were needed. Not one bothered to interact in conversation with any of us. If anything they appeared aloof, looking at us as if we were something unpleasant they had picked up on there shoes. If you blinked your eyes you would have missed there visit. 

    Once, when trying desperately to access the services for support with my mental health, I had mentioned the word 'care'. To be told by the advocate that the care side of the services had long since gone to be replaced with government targets and financial austerity.

    Like many people with mental health isues, I am not workshy but my conditions prevent me from being reliable enough to hold down employment which causes me much anxiety. Furthermore, being already severely housebound, if I had to work from home or face being sanctioned, I would feel even more housebound, isolated and imprisoned.

    The nazi maxim 'Work shall make you free' seems to be a panacea favoured by the tories. What next, a return to the workhouses and concentration camps? I lost my employment because my mental health made it impossible to function as a human being, let alone work. In over three decades I received no support or care for my diagnosed severe mental health conditions. Mental Illness is not a lifestyle choice. It casts a long and dark shadow over your entire life.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      UB40 Rumrunner · 8 months ago
      @frmarcus I agree and after listening to a labour minister recently I'd say their willing to let this all go through nicely. Just muster a few huffs and puffs to appease the faithful. This is about a cheap skate economy and enough tax can't be raised. So let's drag in the scape goat's  aka, disabled and long term unemployed. "Its the right thing to do". Get  me a sick bucket.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Nick · 8 months ago
      @Piltdown Boy You are genuine, can tell by your words. Me too, I wanted and tried work as a teenager etc, but then realised it was too tough with my mental health. Peace to you.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      frmarcus · 8 months ago
      @Piltdown Boy PB: You're assuming this is a Conservative agenda unshared by Labour - but as the article suggests, there can be no assumption that Lab wouldn't agree with this proposal.  From my perspective there is little or no difference any more between the main parties re welfare: Lab's identity crisis means that in New Lab mode it's trying to appeal to a neutral or anti-welfare demographic; in Trad Lab mode it's more concerned with the welfare of the poor.  Take Angela Rayner's refusal this week to commit to the State Pension triple lock - and she's regarded as more Old Lab!  Starmer's nobbled her in his attempt to be Bliarite.

      So, while Lab may be slightly more well-disposed to the hard-up, don;t expect much if they're in power.  And when they have been before in recent decades there's been no conspicuous relative generosity from them for the hard-up: it's a myth (and one they seem to be trying to remove).  For me, If Lab's not particularly concerned with the worst off in society there's simply no point in it and it might as well be ant other party...
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Adam · 8 months ago
    Based on what you can do, I can’t do anything I am too Ill. I thought bullying was illegal, this is beyond that in the extreme

  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Asbo · 8 months ago
    Even if able to work at home it makes no sense to slash the award. What about extra heating costs and all the other extra costs of being home? If they want people.to be self-employed they should support them and that involves financial support.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Stella · 8 months ago
    To work from home you need a health and safety assessment and a room to work in so they haven’t thought of any of that have they 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      george · 8 months ago
      @Helena If you only needed those things ie a specific chair or some other aids you could work in another place but the whole thing is MISSING THE POINT ! For instance some days you could  have to take max amount of anti-inflammatory tablets and painkillers which could render you unable to do ANYTHING that day-  other than lie down due to nausea , dizziness to name but two,  plus still fatigued and head like cotton wool so that day is a no go so you tell employer ( if you are even up to ringing up and stringing together a conversation ) oh sorry cant work TODAY im not sure about tomorrow either untill it comes ! That is just ONE SCENARIO of what can and does happen for most of us in one way or another  daily-  seven days a week-  12 months of the year ! There  are too many scenarios to mention as we all have different conditions and meds - HOWEVER our conditions and meds can render us UNABLE  to say WHAT OR WHEN we can do a certain task ie talk , stay awake , walk/ move about or needing to move every 15/20 mins throught DAY so couldn't stay in one spot seated or standing or fkr sone 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      UB40 Rumrunner · 8 months ago
      @Helena There's also the aspect of insurance cover while working for a business. Are you an employee or, self employed. Is your home now a business address or acting as. Like to see social housing landlords accept this farcical idea or the many private landlord's. Who will upgrade the internet line. No doubt more money being thrown in the wheel barrow load at yet more work programme providers. This time, specific help in answering a phone or video conferencing while on a toilet. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Helena · 8 months ago
      @Stella It depends on who you work for, I worked for a local authority and all I had to do was an online session,  responsibility for health and safety in your work place, in this case your home would be yours.  If you needed a special chair, rising desk or other disability aids to support you then you can apply to your employer to fund it.  I didn’t need a separate room, I used to work in my kitchen.  
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Adam · 8 months ago
      @Stella You also need to be healthy and able to cope

  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Aw · 8 months ago
    Maybe if I lost everything (which is what reducing me to basic rate UC would do, I'd be homless & I'd lose my dog) I would find the strength to somehow overcome my sever mental difficulties of over 40 yrs. I don't know, but the point is they definitely don't. They have no research to propose that removing support makes people well, which is essentially what they're saying when they propose that work is a cure-all. Give me a number say I, tell me what's the percentage chance that I won't end up on a slab, and then tell me how many MPs would take that chance?
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Thedogmother · 8 months ago
      @Aw Yes I hear that. They have a magic wand that ends our woes. 
      Funny that ,because none of our doctors, Physios,consultants can. 
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