Answers to parliamentary questions this month have reinforced the impression that disabled claimants will be entirely subject to the whims of work coaches in relation to their capability for work. Legal safeguards following the proposed abolition of the work capability assessment (WCA) look to be almost non-existent.

Under DWP plans, the WCA is to be abolished by 2026. Instead there will be just one assessment, the PIP assessment, which will decide if you are eligible for PIP and also if you are eligible for the new universal credit (UC) health element.

Instead of health professionals, it will be unqualified UC work coaches who will decide whether a claimant must undertake work-related activities.

Labour MP Karen Buck asked Tom Pursglove, the DWP minister for disabled people, a number of questions about how the proposed abolition of the work capability assessment (WCA) will work in practice.

Buck asked whether there would be a ‘substantial risk test’ comparable to the one in the WCA.

This rule states that you will not have to undertake work-related activity if, because of your condition or disability, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if you did so.

Pursglove’s answer was clearly a ‘No’ without actually saying ‘No’.

His response was:

“As part of the new approach to support, work coaches will have personalised conversations with claimants to determine their individual circumstances and how their health condition impacts them. This will mean that people will have their requirements tailored to their needs, which can include having no work-related requirements at all while the claimant seeks mental health support.

 “Work coaches will provide appropriate support to claimants with health conditions and ensure that operational processes such as the six-point plan are followed to support the claimant.”

Many, many appeals against a WCA decision have been won on the basis that there would be a substantial risk to the claimant or someone else.

Under the new system that legal safeguard will disappear and it will be up to work coaches, who may have very little knowledge of either physical or mental health issues that could put a claimant at risk, who will have the sole power to make the decision.

You can read the full written answer on substantial risk here.

Buck also asked whether there were any plans to introduce a mandatory reconsideration and appeal route against decisions made about a claimant’s ability to undertake work-related activity.

Pursglove’s answer didn’t bode well. He claimed that work coaches would adopt a ‘tailored approach’ which “will allow work coaches to build a relationship with an individual and determine what, if any, work-related activities an individual can participate in.”

This sounds very much like decisions will be based on the particular attitudes and beliefs of any given work coach, without any legal safeguards to prevent dangerous or clearly prejudiced decisions.

He went on to say that “These activities could start from voluntary and dial up to mandatory where appropriate, with requirements added at a pace that is appropriate for the individual.”

Again, this sounds like it will be the work coach who decides the pace at which a claimant must increase their level of activity, with no protection in place for claimants who are struggling and with the threat of sanctions ever present.

On the subject of an appeal process, Pursglove would not be drawn, saying only that the DWP “will take time to carefully consider how best to implement these changes” and “ensure it provides the taxpayer with value for money and is accessible and effective in delivering for our service users.”

But if there are no legal tests to decide who is or isn’t capable of work, only the opinions of a work coach, then it is hard to see how any such decision could be challenged via a social security appeal tribunal.

You can read the full written answer on appeal rights here.

Finally, Buck asked “whether a benefit sanction that reduced Universal Credit Standard Allowance to zero would remove a claimant's entitlement to the Health Element of Universal Credit.”

Pursglove’s initial response seemed positive:

“Entitlement to the new UC health element will only end when the functional impact of a person’s health condition improves and they are no longer eligible for PIP, or as people earn more money and their UC is tapered away, which ensures that they are financially better off in work.”

However, he then went on to say that: “As we develop our reform proposals, we will consider how some interactions with the UC system will be reflected in the reformed system.”

This strongly suggests that the DWP have not yet worked out many things about the new system, including whether the health element will be affected by sanctions.

As the charity Z2K tweeted: “It's beyond belief that the Minister for Disabled People can't confirm that, under his proposals, disabled people won't be hit harder by sanctions than non-disabled people.

 “DWP must urgently confirm that a sanction won't put your Health Element at risk.”

You can read the full written answer on sanctions here.

In all these answers there is a distinct impression that the government wanted to announce a major change in the benefits system but, in reality, they have not yet thought through how it is supposed to work in practice.

Value for money for the taxpayer seems to be the sole guiding principle. This is to be achieved by getting rid of costly assessments and increasing the power of work coaches to push disabled claimants into work, under threat of sanction and with no legal safeguards in place to challenge clearly dangerous decisions.

As Z2K say, it really is beyond belief.

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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Powell · 1 years ago
    This govt has a public agenda to scapegoat the sick, disabled and vulnerable.


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    Lozviz · 1 years ago
    Totally wrong. Twice now I've had to involve my MP - precisely because work coaches do not apply reasonable adjustments for the disabled. They are not experts and while they're under pressure and now even given financial incentives within their role - there's absolutely no way they'll do as they should. 
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      LG101 · 1 years ago
      @Lozviz Indeed. 
      Not so good for those of us who have MPs who refuse to engage. 
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    Patricia hollingsworth · 1 years ago
    I think the government is wrong to put people back to work. When they are disabled. They will need a lot of work done in a factory or any other places but if the owners mite not like to change and then have the responsibility for a disabled person
    I am in a electric wheelchair and I have muscle dystrophy heart skin medical health and I also have liver issues and if I go to work it will be very bad.


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    Lou · 1 years ago
    Absolutely horrified when I heard this they seem to think that abolishing the WCA is in someway a good thing and we should have a sigh of relief but no its just another under handed tactic by this lousy government to pick on and degrade the most vulnerable people in society the sick and the disabled yet again!!A way for them to get reap money back they have given us in one hand and now we pay the price. Disabled and sick people are an easy target for this and somehow they are trying to make it look like they are doing us a favour and now it leaves all the people in this very situation feeling scared and extremely anxious as to what will happen and if they will lose the support they rely on. People are people and they don't choose to be sick, disabled and disadvantaged and many suffer with their mental health too. The support systems in place to help are stretched to the limit and just haven't the recourses to assist fully with this category of people leaving many people feeling completely let down,desperate and suicidal. Why when we hear all the time to be kind that has definitely gone through the window with this government they are brutal and cruel!!
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    Linda · 1 years ago
    This is a totally terrifying suggestion for anyone unable to work through chronic sickness or disability. People will be forced into doing work that may well make their condition worse and might even actually kill them, or die of starvation when the DWP sanctions them for not complying with an order. I have never been so grateful to be extremely close to state pension age than I am right now. But my heart breaks for anyone who will be in this nightmare scenario if this goes through. As for Labour putting a stop to it..... don't hold your breath folks. Keir Starmer is absolutely a Tory in Labour clothing. Also Labour were lambasted for being the party of benefit scroungers and wasting public money. There is no way they will risk their bite at power by coming out against something like this. Don't even rely on them as an opposition party to vote against it!

    When it was first mooted that the two benefits could come under one assessment they made it sound like it was all for the benefit of the person having to fill out the forms and cope with the stress of that and the subsequent assessments. I knew all along they would have a trick up their sleeve, and this is it. Not only will it be one assessment, but that one assessment will not guarantee you peace of mind for even short bursts of time that you are safe from harrassment or from being forced into work related activities, until the next one comes around.

    I am trying to persuade my Daughter to take out some form of out of work insurance should something serious ever prevent her from working!
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      am66 · 8 months ago
      @Linda
      Hi Linda, I completely agree with you this is horrendous and I would also agree with your idea for your daughter to take out income protection. However, as much as Keir Starmer is not my first choice for Labour leader (I would have preferred Corbyn)
       he is the only hope we have in England anyway. Everyone says that Tony Blair was centerist and he may well have been, but life for disabled and unemployed people was better under Blair than it is now, this lot are not even traditional Tories, they are  kick in the ass away from  fascism.
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    Diane · 1 years ago
    Q1 - How will these proposed changes affect people already getting the LCWRA payments? 
    Q2 - Will these changes still go ahead if this Government are voted out at the next general election?
    Q3 - How will work coaches have any idea about how people with mental, physical and somatic conditions & disabilities are able to function, even on a basic level. In my experience and that of my families, not even those who have been properly trained do not "get it".
    Q4 - Since myself and my son got awarded the LCWRA payments not once has our respective work coaches got in touch to see how they can help us.
    Q5 - How will these proposed changes affect those of us who still get LCWRA but are also self-employed due to our various mental & physical health conditions & disabilities?
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    John · 1 years ago
    Hi does anybody know what's going to happen in 2026 regarding the pip assessment I don't get ESA just pip and I work part time and my next assessment Is in 2026 if you tell theses work coaches you already in work will you lose your pip I live on my own and my pip Is my lifeline 
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      Lozviz · 1 years ago
      @John So long as your work doesn't conflict with your reasons for getting PIP then you should continue to receive it. Remember PIP is an in work benefit, many use mobility cars to access work. If you apply for UC at a later date, then you would get the proposed health element of UC provided you are assessed as having the care element for PIP upon renewal. 
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    Mary · 1 years ago
    Given the level of ignorance that still exists within the medical profession, I do not expect an unqualified work coach to be any less ignorant about my disabling chronic illness and how exertion exacerbates it. I am very worried about the effect this latest DWP development could have on my health.
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    Daisy · 1 years ago
    that T.P is a dictator, u can tell that from his aggressive tone and disdain for people the polar oppiste to him and his party.
    They think we have bankrupted the uk. when its his party for there own who do/have.
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    David Anderson · 1 years ago
    Karen Buck raised a very important question regarding the safety net "substantial risk" test in ESA, whereby some disabled people who otherwise could score zero points under the descriptors could under this test be awarded Support Group.  Although the WCA has had many flaws and inconsistencies, it still provided at least "some" protection from the "opinions" of unscrupulous disabled-people-haters within the DWP who, through the legal framework in which the WCA operated, were at least sometimes prevented from imposing their depraved attitudes and vicious punishments on those unable to defend themselves.  The General Election is just over a year away.  We can only hope that this Tory government will be overturned, and never to return.  
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    Andrew · 1 years ago
    Everytime they mess with the DWP, they make it worse. Look at how many people ended up homeless or in heavy debt because UC took so long to process their claim. The benefits system does need an overhaul but better still would be to catch the fraudsters. I've seen people walk into their interviews holding their back and when they came out they were smiling and walking normally. People like her need to be stopped and taken to court. It is not fair on those that are on disability benefits. Work coaches and the people that see you that make a decision about you are not all qualified, I've been to several interviews and they weren't qualified in mental health nor an understanding of how it affects you. I was diagnosed with cyclothymia, later changed to multiple personality issues with emotional traits, I struggle around people, places I've never been too etc etc I've shouted a few times in the supermarket and I've had to have words with some people about personal space. Then, I suffer with arthritis in the knees, bad back, neck and only half a calf muscle left on one leg and sciatica and yet I get nothing for mobility, which makes no sense at all and I know I am not alone with suffering, others do to and things are not made any better by adding more stress to claimants. Its hard enough as it is now.
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    Philip · 1 years ago
    Don't know what to say.I'm very concerned about it.The Nazis did the same and they created the EU And many would have backed Corbyn if he'd been on the lesve side.I hope he makes a comeback.
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    Aw · 1 years ago
    So as it is proposed, you can get PIP and *still be under obligation to comply with a work coach?! I get PIP primarily because I am incapable of 'forming relationships' with people, especially those in positions of power over me. I am unable to communicate directly with the DWP because, well basically I start shouting at them and that loss of control results in prolonged suicidal ideation and self harm. I hate being triggered and that's all they ever do to me. If they believe that work coaches aren't going to go out of their way to aggravate people like me they're delusional.
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    Woo · 1 years ago
    Hey this could be the end for benefit claims. As people are fully aware on this site work coaches are like 100% behind finding you work so you eventually lose all you benefits. You will need to have a doctor's certificate explaining you only have six months to live before a work coach decides your not fit for work.


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      LG101 · 1 years ago
      @Brian F Kirkham You think it's their job to find work for you? 
      Bless. 
      So veryC20th
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      Chris · 1 years ago
      @Bob Good on you keep fighting on don't let them win.
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      Brian F Kirkham · 1 years ago
      @Woo If Work Coaches are 100% behind finding disabled people work, why is it they found it easier to park me in the system since my last assessment ?  Could it be they can't be bothered to look for work meeting my skills or even an opportunity not meeting my skills but with support ? Or perhaps they couldn't be bothered reading the assessment they paid for and had me attend? - Oh joy of joys!
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Aw · 1 years ago
      @Bob I'll be in my  mid 50s too and I'm starting to think that I may as well consider the next few years as my retirement...
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      Bob · 1 years ago
      @Woo I know it’s not looking good is it?cant even depend on labour to try and change things when they probably get in government next either?bad times nowadays nobody cares no more likely they used to do?me personally I will be in middle 50s by the time the changes come so I’m just gonna carry on and fight it 
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    Scott · 1 years ago
    This is just utter vile scare tactics by a horrible bullying government hell bent on making the most disadvantaged ie Sick and Disabled in society suffer greatly than they should, and the Tories wonder why they got hammered in the local elections a few weeks ago, I thought the Nazi part was a thing of the past, but obviously not, they are Blue leading the way in Whitehall, the scary thing is the Labour Party are just as bad which doesn’t leave much choice or hope for us! 
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      Andrew · 9 months ago
      @Scott Why, when the Government does or suggests something that ruffles feathers, does the disabled community refer to them as Nazis?  They are no such thing; I`m not a fan of the Tories, but I will never compare them to, or even call them, Nazis.
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      Scott · 1 years ago
      @Ian I read a quote which was posted on one of the forums on B&W what the shadow minister said about the sick and disabled, I can’t remember the quote word for word, but what I do know is I don’t think she is going to be an ally or friend for the sick and disabled! I just hope there are fundamental changes of MPs between now and the next election, someone a bit more sympathetic towards us, but I think I’m hoping far too much! Sometimes I don’t know how some of these MPs sleep at night! 
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      Ian · 1 years ago
      @Scott How do you know the Labour party are just as bad?
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    Mark · 1 years ago
    It literally makes me feel sick reading this.  I hope that it doesn't get through parliament. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Jenny · 1 years ago
      @Mark We won't get peace until they hound us into our graves why can't the sick and disabled be left alone we have bothers enough.These people must be evil or why else would they target the vulnerable it's not like they're paying our benefits out of their own pocket ??
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