Over half of all initial claimants for employment and support allowance (ESA) are placed in the support group, but claims are taking longer to decide, according to figures released by the DWP last week.

For initial claims to the quarter to March 2019:

  • 53% were placed in the support group. This is an increase of 5% since the previous quarter.
  • 21% were placed in the work-related activity group, down 1%.
  • 26% were found fit for work, down 5% since the last quarter.

The vast majority of work capability assessments are now repeat assessments for existing claimants rather than initial claims, however.

The number of initial assessments decreased in the quarter to March 2019 from 59,000 to 41,000.

Completed repeat assessments increased from 160,000 to 190,000. This represents a huge increase from December 2015 when there were just 35,000 ESA reassessments. The DWP’s explanation is that for almost two years, up to December 2015, they were focusing on initial assessments.

The proportion of ESA repeat assessments placed in the support group has increased from 72% last quarter to 75% this quarter, while the proportion with a fit for work outcome has decreased from 11% last quarter to 9% this quarter. 16% were placed in the WRAG.

The time taken to complete a WCA, from initial contact with the claimant to decision, increased from 15 weeks in December 2018 to 20 weeks in March 2019.

However, the time taken for a mandatory reconsideration to be completed fell from 15 days in December 2018 to 8 days in June 2019.

35% of mandatory reconsiderations result in a change in the decision.

The number of ESA mandatory reconsiderations has fallen dramatically, however, from a high of 22,000 in March 2017 to 4,700 in July 2019.

You can download the latest ESA statistics from this link.


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