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.
    Frank Bowron · 8 months ago
    Our daughter is visually impaired, on the autism spectrum, has ataxia, is unable to interact socially with strangers and unable to get about unaccompanied.  She was assessed as capable of work by ATOS in 2016 with no face to face interview, solely on the basis of the answers on the form, by a State Registered Nurse.   We appealed and the appeal was rejected, again without any human interaction.  We appealed to the first tier tribunal, submitting a full file of medical and psychological evidence documents an inch thick and the appeal was upheld.  

    We now see proposals to remove the grounds for her award.  How the DWP proposes an almost blind, autistic 50 year old autistic woman with ataxia to work from home beggars belief.  

    I was a Conservative Party activist and local councillor, but her treatment by DWP and ATOS so disgusted me that I resigned from the party.  No-one in our family will be voting Conservative at the next election. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      oneronebitethedust · 7 months ago
      @Frank Bowron Dear Frank, plese first accept my sincere condolences for the treatmeant of your daughther by the DWP and welcome your party resignation as a sign of your disgust, if more party members would do like yourself, maybe they would start listening!
      Please also dont take my following remarks as personal as they are not, but I think what you are describing is what's wrong with most Conservative Party activists behaviour. They only see the horrendous outcome of most of their policies from the perpective of someone who has a confortable, priviledge life and hasnt come ever close to our agonizing daily fight to keep alive, be fed and under a warm roof. Only when misfortune finally touches them is when they believe is really happening!
      Maybe what has happened you and the treatmeant of your daughter will hopefully open the eye's of some of your ex-coleagues in the party.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Piggymitch · 8 months ago
    The DWP ministers ought to consider a change of career,to maybe underwater explorers or professional limbo dancers;it seems there are no depths to which they won't stoop!
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      UB40 Rumrunner · 8 months ago
      @Piggymitch No need. Be totally useless at your first and guaranteed work for 30 years no matter how you perform in all other departments with golden pension for your efforts. Very nice work if we could get that.But it's not for the little people. imo 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Liz · 8 months ago
    Had
    Lower rate DLA for
    Sever years with 2 chronic conditions which are getting progressively worse, was turned down for
    PIP and also with follow up (got zero points 🤷‍♀️) now
    Have state pension and have applied for AA , not hopeful I have to say…. Just tired of the whole situation ! 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Anonymous · 8 months ago
    Posting anonymously due to embarrassment
    I get PIP, low rate care, high rate mobility. And LCWRA
    My walkings gone, I use a rollator in the house. On the odd occasion I'm taken out it's in a wheelchair but now because I leave the house rarely I feel edgy,uncomfortable and want to come home. Some sort of anxiety ? I never used to be like it, I was always very sociable, loved to be out and about. But not now
    My other main problem is my incontinence. When I've got to go I've got to go. And I don't always realise I need to either. Pads are by no means infallible.
    I'm on heavy doses of meds, mainly painkillers. Mostly they make me really weary, need to sleep. Sometimes I just feel awful ,poorly and groggy. I've had a couple of days like that this week
    I'll never work again. It's not by choice. I miss my old life, didn't ask to be disabled and ill
    These proposals are a concern

  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    DundeeFruitcake · 8 months ago
    The Tories will not be happy until the sick and disabled, who they see only as a non economically active number, are all dead.  The way they have treated us over the last 13 years has got rid of a few thousand of us and the stress involved in dealing with all their shenanigans, the endless paperwork, the endless assessments/reassessments, mandatory reconsiderations, appeals and sanctions will no doubt have them rubbing their hands in glee that their new plans will see off more than a few thousand more.  Using us to pay for their economic mismanagement over the last 13 years whilst making sure they're all right jack is utterly despicable.  But hey, what's new, they are the nasty party. I personally have been waiting 11 months for an appeal date, meanwhile a new claim is on hold while I wait for the appeal to take place.  I have ME/CFS, FQAD (Fluoroquinolone Associated Disability - poisoned by prescription drugs), Anxiety/Depression, Complex PTSD, EUPD and recurrent cancer.  I also worked from the age of 16 to 42 until I became too ill to work.  Shame on any government who treats the most vulnerable like this.  None of us asked to be chronically ill or disabled.  Hopefully most of those who treat us with a lack of empathy and utter contempt will find out one day exactly what it is like to be in this position.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    TwistedWitch · 8 months ago
    These proposals are utterly terrifying. It's all well and good to state that they are making these changes because many people will be able to manage their health and work from home, but first you need to be successful in applying for a job that allows COMPLETE remote working. Even those that did the right thing during covid and sent their staff home to work remotely now want them back in the office for at least half of the week. My Daughter has to go in for 3 days and work remotely for 2. How is that going to help someone who regularly loses control of their bowels? How is it going to help someone terrified of social interaction? Or someone who cannot walk. I, for example, could not make the ruddy bus stop to enable me to get to work without my mobility scooter. This is a cost cutting exericse and nothing more.

    If the government had ever wanted to help disabled people into work why did they shut down all the Remploy places that were designed specifically for that?

    I have just been invited to apply for my SP and have indeed done so. I cannot explain the IMMENSE sense of relief that washed over me knowing that I was but 4 short months from officially retiring and freeing myself of the torture of incessant tests, scrutinisations and the terrifying brown envelope of doom. It was as if someone had come along grabbed that boulder of stress and fear from my shoulders and tossed it into the ocean.

    If I had ever stood any chance of returning to work it is now clear to me that the stress that these punitive tests put you under put paid to any chance of that ever happening.

    I am so grateful I will be out of this trap, but my heart truly does break for those poor buggers still stuck in it. And if these proposals see the light of day that system will be even more skewed against them, and that stress will be all the more unbearable.

    I will go and fill out the consulation in the slim hope that it will help someone who is in my position healthwise but is nowhere near being able to escape and retire.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Clare Crotty · 8 months ago
    Are there going to be any appeals procedure ? I can see for some that having the help to get back to work would be great and maybe life changing But They would need help maybe for a long amount of time So that they can be a good useful employee and keep their job and be worth employing for their employer All this will cost money Otherwise without help all that will happen is a revolving door of work and benefits Which many will not be capable of dealing with 
    There are bound to be many others who will be pushed into the cycle of benefits then work then benefits as the reality is they are not employable As employers will want an employee they can rely on There are many fit and healthy people looking for employment out there they could employ instead Why would they want to employ someone who has been out of the job market for years due to disability or sickness  ? The main issue is the disabled and sick are frightened of what is going to happen This limbo state waiting for the axe to fall is stressful as if being treated as a malingerer and a fraud is not enough With all the vile language  and generalization used to justify poor treatment of the sick and disabled spreads like a pandemic throughout the population 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Ray Stewart · 8 months ago
    Yes, there are Hospital Pharmacist Practitioners who accompany Doctors on Ward Round and give their input. But, most Pharmacists are those in local Chemists and branches of Boots etc so they do not have the experience of the Hospital Pharmacist Practitioners.
    My son is a Pharmacist and he can reel off the uses of most of the medicinal drugs and so could tell by someone's prescription what their ailments are, but for him to assess someone about their physical and mental standing and possible "ability to work" (which is a complete misnomer in itself) in a face to face situation is a completely different scenario (that is an "ability to work" ambiguity).     
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      TwistedWitch · 8 months ago
      @axwy62
      I had one assessor, who came to my home, determine I could walk 200 metres because he asked me to walk to the next door room, a whole 5 steps there and back. And also added, as a back up to his ludicrous claims that I must walk miles every day because I had hard skin on my feet! Total idiot. Most people who are in shoes and walking around have less hard skin because walking in shoes can make your feet sweat keeping the skin moisturised.

    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      axwy62 · 8 months ago
      @Frank Bowron It probably wouldn't have made any difference. I've had at least 8 assessments, half face to face (and audio recorded, with or without permission) and not one of them accurately reflected my limitations and often included out and out lies. One assessor said I walked more than 50 metres during the assessment. Neither my son nor I remember me even getting out of my wheelchair, let alone walking around our small living room at least 10 times. Then there's the one who did a complete physical examination which I've also obviously forgotten. The one who got my name and gender wrong. The list just goes on.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Frank Bowron · 8 months ago
      @Ray Stewart Face to Face?  Since when?  Our daughter was assessed on the form only by a registered nurse and was never invited for interview. Her appeal was turned down, also without interview.  The first tier tribunal granted her appeal, but it was a mammoth task that involved a file of her medical records since birth, plus school reports and clinical psychological assessments at King’s College Hospital.  It all took a huge toll on her mental health.  
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Anthony Sibley · 8 months ago
    We the most vulnerable in society will be paying for the waste of public money by this government ….PPE that was not up to scratch is being wasted and yet still paid for . I can see that people’s mental health will deteriorate because of the stress and all the uncertainty .Many people do not have the skill set as they have not worked for a number of years and so the governments expectations are simple ..you can do the jobs nobody wants and be paid peanuts and we save money. how clever are we ..I can see that some people will only see one out of this and it will not be a nice ending ….
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Mary · 8 months ago
    Why don’t they chase tax fraud instead? And 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Silver Shadow · 8 months ago
    I received a WCA50 in July this year. 2 years a bit away from my pension. It started my MH problems off again and hubby and I were not willing to go through all that again. It was so bad trying to move from the old IB to ESA Support Group. Long story short, I closed the claim. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Adam · 8 months ago
    This is going to push me to the end 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    blandie · 8 months ago
    The way I interpret this is that currently people too ill to work who only qualify for contributory ESA will no longer necessarily qualify and therefore will get 1 years payments then potentially nothing at all unless they qualify for UC.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      TwistedWitch · 8 months ago
      @blandie
      The way I interpret ii is that anyone trying to claim benefits, contributory or income related will get nothing unless they are virtually a corpse
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Anonymous · 8 months ago
      @blandie I agree. So much for paying NI contributions.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    clearwater · 8 months ago
    This consultation does anybody know, is there a way to take part anonymously?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Porridge · 8 months ago
    Well, if an employer is happy to give me a job (even though I have not been able to work for 20 years) and put up with my faecal incontinence around the office and my inability to communicate with anyone, other than extremely frankly, with everyone I meet, and my meltdowns (because I am autistic) and also the fact that I have such chronic pain (inflammatory arthritis) I am always stoned out of my mind in prescription opioids that I can’t really move about very much: and that employer is happy to pay me upwards of £30,000 per annum (which is what I need at a minimum to live on and to support my child and pay rent and eat etc) then fine! I am happy to go along with what ever rotten and inhumane moves this government may wish to make on disabled and sick people, but we still gotta eat and have somewhere to live ain’t we? Or not?
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Gary · 8 months ago
      @Porridge How do you think the many people who work long hours survive on less than less than £ 30,000 survive? I would not worry about any employer offering you work.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Porridge · 8 months ago
      @Helen Please set out how you suggest I would survive on less than a salary of £30,000? I do not smoke or drink or ever go out or ever go on holiday or ever buy new clothes. Do you think that I should both be forced to do a job I am incapable of and also that either I and my kid must also not eat or not have anywhere to live? I really am not sure what you are trying to say. What is it you expect and want for people who are both sick and disabled? Would you prefer them all to be removed from society in some way if they cannot work? Would that give you comfort and satisfaction? I am so glad for you that you have the privilege of being able to manage despite having a spinal injury and to work and I am sure this gives you self-esteem and pride. Lind may you be able to do that and good luck to you. Not everyone is as able as you are, believe it or not, and not everyone would ever be offered any sort of job by anyone.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Del · 8 months ago
      @Helen Unfortunately Helen some of us can't, I am on morphine for pain due to spinal injury and degenerative skeletal disease, I also suffer recurring flare ups of Diverticular disease, on top of IBS and PTSD, I loved working but due to health and constant fatigue agoraphobia! I rarely go out my door. Not everyone copes ad well as others. A case by case assessment by a qualified Dr not a DWP employee is the only way forward. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Helen · 8 months ago
      @Porridge So are you getting upwards of £30,000 now? These proposals are to get people off benefits to work from home not in an office so a lot of people who currently can't go out to work would be able to work from home. I have got a spinal cord injury, I would not be able to go out to work but I manage to work from home.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    frmarcus · 8 months ago
    If Lab and its new shadow DWP minister is unwilling to commit to the best care amongst the political parties for the poorest in society - poor pensioners (accepting many are not poor), unpaid carers, the sick and disabled and those receiving income-replacement benefit - then what is the point of it? It is this care and concern that has historically and characteristically marked a sharp distinction between it and Conservatives. If Lab wants again to be New Lab - which was Conservatism with a red rinse - then it should be honest and say so.

    This WCA proposal is not a neutral reform of support for sick and disabled but a reduction.  WCA may well need reform, but as the intention is to reduce the cohort adjudged unable to work this is a cut plain and simple.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Woo · 8 months ago
    Absolute disgrace. No one will pass new or amended test. Or very few which is of course the idea. It really could be the end of benefits for most people. Don't forget to vote Conservative !!!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    tom · 8 months ago
    This is about the work from home agenda, as that is the excuse they will use to deny people the benefits they rightly deserve
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      TwistedWitch · 8 months ago
      @tom At a time when most firms are trying to pull back into the office their home workers. My Daughter went from 5 days remote to 4, then to 3, now she is only allowed 2 remote days a week. Pretty soon there will be no remote working...... but by then of course these beggars will have enshrined this total garbage in law and sick/disabled people will be firmly up the stinky creek without the proverbial paddle
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    JENGA · 8 months ago
    It’s simple. They want us all dead.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Bee South/East UK · 8 months ago
      @JENGA I couldn't agree more!! Severely sick & or disabled people like myself are a "drain" on their resources so what better way to save money than hit the most vunerable in society...with the NHS in a complete shambles too, we don't stand a chance, elderly, sick, infirm & those needing care, all would save the government tons if we weren't here. & like on some films that depict a dystopian future, it's the "survival of the fittest" & only those who an contribute are "worthy" to be saved, many sick/disabled people contributed before they became sick or disabled but even that won't matter because it's the "now" that the government are concerned with. If you're just lazy & making it all up then great, they will be stopped but in all honesty, most people who are honest & generally sick & disabled would love to have the ability to live a normal life, work, buy a house,take holidays etc but people like myself don't get a choice in what illness's or disabilities they get/suffer & I say suffer because I know if I could get 1 of these politicians to be me for just 5 mins & feel the severity of pain I'm in, the difficulties I face, the degradation of needing carers to wash & dress you amongst needing 38 medications everyday 2even be able to be transferred to my powerchair & sit in the lounge 4a few hours until the carers come back to put me back 2bed just a couple of my daily battles, I can assure u that they would not want to change the wca/Lcwca assessments but they do, they will never know our battles but getting rid of us is perfect, a society with no sick or disabled people draining  their messed up budgets & only "contributers" get to live....it may not be quite that bad "yet" but with DLA/PIP benefits also being harder to get from reassessing the "qualifiers" so millions lost their Motability car or went from a lifetime award on DLA to being declined anything from PIP & facing appeals that won, they've been killing us off 1 by 1, benefit by benefit for years already so yes, this is a conspiracy!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      DundeeFruitcake · 8 months ago
      @lesley Most people with mental health issues feel abandoned. Care in the community is a joke. Individual mental health professionals working for community mental health do what they can but the waiting lists to get there are horrendous. And the staff turnover? We see someone once or twice and then they're replaced (eventually) by someone else. Repeating their life story to each one is re/traumatising and makes people worse. Mental Health just isn't a priority and never has been. This government has thrown us on the scrapheap as have previous and no doubt future. It's a shortsighted disgrace.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Yelsel · 8 months ago
      @lesley Most people with mental health issues feel abandoned.  Care in the community is a joke.  Individual mental health professionals working for community mental health do what they can but the waiting lists to get there are horrendous.  And the staff turnover?   We see someone once or twice and then they're replaced (eventually) by someone else.  Repeating their life story to each one is re/traumatising and makes people worse.  Mental Health just isn't a priority and never has been.  This government has thrown us on the scrapheap as have previous and no doubt future.  It's a shortsighted disgrace.
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