The DWP have rolled out a new, pre-WCA interview to 12 new areas in an effort to get more sick and disabled claimants moving towards work before any decision has been made about whether they have Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (LCWRA).
The DWP claim that “Employment and Health Discussion” (EHD) trial that took place in Leeds “helped hundreds of people move towards work”.
According to the DWP, a ‘work ability plan’ is created in the course of a one-hour conversation between a health practitioner and the claimant.
The plan identifies barriers to work and actions that can be taken to overcome them. The plan is then shared with the claimant’s work coach “to continue support to overcome their barriers and move them towards work.”
The DWP says that this means that “health claimants can highlight and begin to overcome any work barriers prior to undergoing a Work Capability Assessment, potentially realising a job outcome sooner.”
According to the department, the Leeds pilot showed that most claimants were able to understand their own health better as a result of the discussion.
The DWP say that EHDs are voluntary.
They were first unveiled in this year’s health and disability white paper, when the government insisted that the discussion is not an assessment, does not carry sanctions and does not gather information for the WCA.
They also said that “it is not necessary for the healthcare professional carrying out an EHD to be an expert on complex disabilities. However, they will have an understanding of how health conditions impact day to day life.”
No information has been given about what type of health professionals will carry out EHDs, what training they will have received or what a work ability plan looks like.
The aim is clearly to put something in place in the lead up to the proposed complete abolition of the WCA, when it would be left largely to work coaches to decide what activities a claimant can undertake.
Whether EHDs will remain voluntary and sanction free remains to be seen.
In the meantime, one major concern is that claimants who will be placed in the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (LCWRA) group when they finally have their WCA may already have been pushed into inappropriate work preparation activities by a work coach armed with an EHD.
Benefits and Work would advise claimants to consider very carefully whether they wish to take part in an EHD, as long as they remain entirely voluntary. We would also be very interested to see any invitation letters and to hear what takes place at the interview, if any readers do decide to take part in an EHD.
The 12 new sites, in addition to Leeds, which have come online are: