New claimants with mobilising issues will be the largest group hit by the proposed changes to the work capability assessment (WCA) planned for 2025, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has predicted.  However, hundreds of thousands of claimants who may be a risk to themselves or others will also be caught by the changes.

Background

The government revealed last year that it is proposing to make changes to the work capability assessment to make it tougher for new claimants. 

The proposed changes are:

Mobilising:  the points will be unchanged, but the highest scoring descriptor will no longer give claimants limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA).

Getting about:  the highest scoring descriptor will still give limited capability for work (LCW), but the scores for the other descriptors will be reduced.

Substantial risk for LCWRA:  this will be unchanged for physical health.  But for mental health the criteria will be made much stricter.  We don’t have details yet, but it may only apply to people with specified mental health conditions who are experiencing an acute episode for which there is medical evidence.

There’s more details on the changes here.

Projected numbers

The OBR have now produced a supplementary forecast to the November 2023 Economic and fiscal outlook giving estimates of how many people will be affected by the changes.

It should be noted that these changes, according to the DWP, will only affect new claimants, not existing ones.

The OBR estimate that by 2028-29:

371,000 additional claimants will be placed in LCW group rather the LCWRA group because of changes to the mobilising descriptors;

230,000 additional claimants will be placed in LCW group rather the LCWRA group because of changes to the substantial risk regulations;

29,000 claimants will be placed in the intensive work search group rather than the LCW group.

This means that 59% of the new claimants affected will have mobilising issues, 36% will be those who would currently be deemed to be at risk and 5% will be those with problems ‘getting about’.

Still going ahead

In evidence to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee earlier this month, the DWP confirmed both that it is still intending to introduce the changes to the WCA in 2025 and that they will only affect new claims:

"Our plan with the changes to the work capability assessment is to introduce them from 2025, and then we have said that we will roll out the White Paper reforms. Really importantly, the WCA change is for new claims only."

The “White Paper reforms” relate to the complete abolition of the WCA.  The DWP confirmed in the same meeting that it still plans to introduce the White Paper reforms from 2026 for new claims and from 2029 for existing claimants: 

“The White Paper changes, beginning with new claims, will happen on a staged geographical basis from 2026, and then will move across the stock of existing claims from 2029.”

If there is a change of government this year, then none of the proposed changes may go ahead. 

Vicky Foxcroft, shadow minister for disabled people, told the Disability News Service in October 2023 that Labour would not introduce the changes to the WCA.  However, there has been no official policy announcement on this topic or the White Paper changes by Labour.

Full details of the OBR’s estimates of the effects of changes to the WCA are available here.

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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    andrea · 22 days ago
    Does this mean they will be scrapping the chance for existing claimants to never be assessed again? This was huge relief for myself and anyone who has severe mental health issues, I would be very disappointed if Labour scrapped that part of the reforms.
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      adrian · 21 days ago
      @andrea    YEP   & 60 now . VERY  few people get better  worse .  yes there  should be for life awards  . NOT JUST   1 , 3 , 10 yr awards as seems to be  .  BEST  bet get torys out  2024 trust labour keir sort there mess out  AS  torys go ahead with this from april 2025 if they get back in 2025-2029 . 
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    Esb · 22 days ago
    When they say “new claimants” do they mean that claimants who are technically forced to reapply each time their awards are reviewed will be included in the sweep? I’ll bet they do.  
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      adrian · 21 days ago
      @Esb HOPE  not  this does not include people who applied b4 2025 just renew claim . 
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    Tony Sibley · 23 days ago
    Frankly disabled people are of no financial use to the country - the government are deluded to think that everyone can work from home and that advisors at the job centers are going to be honest about people’s ability to work when they will be incentivized to lie that you are fit to work .
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Mick · 23 days ago
    So, to clarify - us that are already in receipt of UC LCWRA under the substantial risk rule are safe until 2029?

    These new criteria & changes are only applicable to new claimants from 2025 onwards, and not existing current claims?

    What about if we get a UC review in 2025?

    Can somebody please clarify.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Moss · 23 days ago
    I don't trust labour, let alone Tories at all (both of them are horrible). My vote this year will go to greens instead. It won't do much, but im just sick and tired of labour not being progressive and just being a red Tory lite all the time.
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    Jason Lee · 24 days ago
    Will Labour change anything,,,,?????
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      george · 21 days ago
      @TwistedWitch Agree don't trust Keir starmer but - I don't believe for one minute we will be worse off than under Tory rule no way ! Not better but definitely not worse anyway . 
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      adrian · 21 days ago
      @Jason Lee yes &60 now i say that as tony blair / was better 1997-2010 than maggie /torys 1979-1990 . 
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      Andy · 22 days ago
      @Jason Lee No, because they know policies that punish benefit claimants are popular with voters
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      TwistedWitch · 23 days ago
      @Jason Lee The short answer is no. The long answer is don't trust Keir Starmer any further than you can throw him. He has already proscribed dozens of labour groups and punished people for daring to have an opion that does not match his own. He is a very dangerous man and if anything I fear the lot of the sick/disabled and pensioner will end up being worse under his rule than the current tory one!
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      clearwater · 23 days ago
      @Jason Lee Dont be fooled by  Labour's Three Amigos....................... Reeves, Ashworth & Kendall are just as ruthless as the Tories, albeit using softer/disguised language.  


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    diceman24 · 24 days ago
    this country and the world have so many problems at the  moment, my opinion on this situation is keep calm try not to worry about what could be and could happen at this specific moment this changes may never happen if labour win the election and if labour  do lose election the so called changes still might not happen and we should not worry about changes with so long still to go b4 changes life is to short to keep worrying about things that may not happen this is only my opinion everyone stay calm and try to enjoy the life we have be given god bliss to everyone 
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    Tired · 24 days ago
    We need to know what will happen to existing CB ESA claimants in 2029 when they start the migration relating to the move to UC Health Credits

    I am assuming that any CB ESA claimants with over £16000 will have their ESA terminated and left with NO income.

    ESA won't exist and you can't claim the UC HC if over £16000

    I therefore suggest anyone potentially think seriously about running down their savings if that suits you to do so.


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      Elizabeth Vidler · 21 days ago
      @Tired I am in this group and think the answer is yes the cb esa with savings over the subscribed limit will be thrown under the bus, I have written to my MP to ask what happens to us and of course they reality is they don't know, they never think anything out or consider how it will work in practice or perhaps I should say they don't care.
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      adrian · 21 days ago
      @Tired VERY  sound ADVICE    uc    check back 3 mouths prior claim uc 
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      reasonstobecheerful · 24 days ago
      @Tired Post got cut. Hoping this is it:

      New style esa is linked to UC and is not means tested. I'd say after managed migration there will still be a contribution related payment which will be deducted from any means tested UC top up you get, as it is now. It is the UC which is means tested, not the contribution related benefit.

      That's just my impression, though, based on thinking they wouldn't want to do away with contribution related benefits, because that would disincentivise work and paying the NI.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      reasonstobecheerful · 24 days ago
      @Tired New style esa is linked to UC and is not means tested. I'd say after managed migration there will still be a
      That's just my impression, though, based on thinking they wouldn't want to do away with contribution related benefits, because that would disincentivise work.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    The Dog mother · 24 days ago
    So....New claims??? What of those to be moved from esa to uc in due course,is that counted as a New claim. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      The Dog mother · 24 days ago
      @MrFibro Thank you MrFibro I did wonder. Needed clarification on it.
      Sounds right. Dreading UC.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      MrFibro · 24 days ago
      @The Dog mother The dog  mother,

      Hi, I thought being moved from ESA onto UC as being a transitional move only ( not our choice) without losing existing premiums .  Therefore we are not new claimants making a fist initial claim.  As we're being forcibly migrated, with transitional premium protection.

      Interesting to see how this will pan out as time goes on.  Hopefully some subscribers will have more knowledge, about this subject, and post relevant information regarding this.

      regards to all
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