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.
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.
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.