11 February 2011
Regulations for the new, harsher work capability assessment (WCA) for employment and support allowance (ESA) were laid before parliament on 10 February and will come into force on 28 March 2011. They will lead to many tens of thousands more sick and disabled claimants being found fit for work and have deliberately been introduced in time to reduce the number of successful transfers from incapacity benefit to ESA.
The revised WCA will make it easier with some people with mental health conditions and cancer to get into the support group.
But it will also mean blind claimants who can get around safely with a guide dog will be forced onto jobseekers allowance, as will deaf claimants who can read and write.
Claimants who can’t walk but who can use a manual wheelchair will no longer score points.
In addition, references to hands have been removed from the picking up activity specifically in order to make it harder for amputees to score points.
Some activities have simply been cut from the test altogether. For example, the activity of ‘Bending and kneeling’, for which 30 points are currently available, is to be completely done away with for ‘health and safety reasons’ as people should not ‘bend forward when lifting’.
Half of all the scoring descriptors for mental health and learning difficulties have also been axed, making it much harder to get onto ESA for people with conditions such as depression or anxiety.
You can read more about the effects of the harsher WCA in an article we first published in April 20101: Even harsher new ESA medical approved (Members only).
The new assessment has been condemned by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), which has urged the government not to introduce it without a great deal more research. The government, however, have ignored all the recommendations made by SSAC.
You can try the new WCA for yourself with our onlineWCA self-assessment tool.
You can read the new regulations here
You can read the SSAC report on the regulations here