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.
    Harry · 9 months ago
    I've submitted it however I'm also very sceptical too as they are determined to save money at the expense of the disabled 
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    CARTERWINTER · 9 months ago
    Like wise Kim  
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    clearwater · 9 months ago
    Re- the above consultation, is there a way to take part anonymously?
     i understand it would be good to show opposition to their proposals, however would never trust both DWP and Govt, (Labour Lib Dem included)

    Reading the 31p PDF - Changes to better understand what people can do, What do you think?

    I could not help thinking some pictures of disabled people are rather insulting. What right do they have to depict some people could/do look like that. One immediately senses an element of prejudice and auto suggestion.......... arrogance .

    Again, is there a way to take part anonymously? 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Saetana · 9 months ago
      @clearwater Yes it is anonymous, I just filled it out and didn't have to give any personal details.
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    james h · 9 months ago
    i thought they was scrapping the wca altogether? but yes all these changes very worrying indeed ive said before i will be middle 50s by then and i have autism too but suppose working from home is not too bad if the dwp will provide me with a nice brand new laptop and an employer would take me on and provide me a decent wage then i would work from home 
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    Jason Lee · 9 months ago
    I hope they stop assessments for depression and introduce more light touch reviews,,very worrying..
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    Kim · 9 months ago
    I’ve managed to politely but strongly object to the changes via the online form. I’m terrified.
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    Ian · 9 months ago
    I thought they were scrapping the WCA altogether and deciding LCW and LCWRA or their ESA equivalents to a successful PIP allocation and then leave it up to unqualified work coaches to decide which group they went in.

    Has this plan been scrapped as it seems to alter all the WCA forms and descriptors, put the IT systems up to date a real waste of money if its only until 2026?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Clockaholic · 9 months ago
    Absolutely disgusting. If this gets through there will be a lot more blood on their hands. Not that they would care, clearly.
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    denby · 9 months ago
    Thank you as ever B&W for highlighting this awful proposal. I will let friends know and encourage them to do the 'consultation'. I just pray that DWP don't 'lose' adverse responses the way they do people's forms and paperwork and assessment recordings, Can B&W wonderful back office perhaps do an FOI at the closing date to ascertain the amount and balance of responses?
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    clearwater · 9 months ago
    K Starmer, R reeves, L Kendall, are not the slightest bit interested in helping claimants or disabled people, 


    Dr Rosena Allin-Khan Labour Mental Health champion. Professional NHS GP resigned as result of K. Starmer on several occasions clearly stating he was NOT INTERESTED in any Mental health Portfolio,

    Labour are every bit as power hungry and ruthless as the Conservatives. expect no help from Starmer's  Labour.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Mik · 9 months ago
      @clearwater Labour have a particular problem in that the right wing press attack them for any suggestion of helping benefit claimants, so they have to tread very carefully in the run up to they election. Ultimately the Labour Party is full of people very sympathetic to the disabled and people who haven’t got a silver spoon. Remember it’s never guaranteed that the winner of the election from a party remains leader. Remember Boris! The Tory party is becoming more and more right wing, and having squandered a fortune with mismanagement over the last years, they want us ( the disabled) to pay for it. Life under labour won’t be perfect, but a damn sight better than this Tory hell.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      welshval · 9 months ago
      @clearwater clearwater you are correct we will not get any help from this Labour party maybe the Green party and any compassionate independent candidates would be more open minded to our plight. But realistically I think we are on our own with this attack
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