Reassessments for claimants in the support group for employment and support allowance (ESA) or who have limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA) for universal credit (UC) have not stopped and will continue until 2025, the DWP has now clarified.
The department caused enormous confusion when it published its response to the work capability assessment (WCA) consultation last month. The document repeatedly suggested that current LCWRA/support group claimants would never be reassessed again.
It included phrases such as:
“almost all people who are currently assessed as having LCWRA will never face a WCA reassessment again”
“no one currently assessed as having LCWRA will face a WCA reassessment, save in some exceptional circumstances”
“The commitment that no one with an existing LCWRA decision today will be reassessed, except in a few limited circumstances, means that they can try work without fear of losing their LCWRA financial support.”
This last claim turns out to be especially misleading and could lead to claimants losing their LCWRA status if taken at face value.
Because, in a response dated 15 December 2023 to a freedom of information request asking for clarification of whether claimants with LCW or LCWRA would be subject to reassessment before 2025, the DWP stated:
“We have already resumed WCA reassessments on a limited basis for existing LCW and LCWRA claimants, now that we have recovered some capacity following Covid response measures that focused on processing initial claims to ensure eligible claimants were brought into payment.
“Up until 2025 when the new WCA changes announced at Autumn Statement in November 2023 are introduced, WCA reassessments will continue as normal for both the LCW and LCWRA groups depending on circumstances, including prognosis period and subject to available capacity in the system.”
It’s worth noting the phrase “now that we have recovered some capacity” which strongly suggests that the DWP and the assessment companies still only have limited resources for dealing with reassessments, in addition to new claims.
And, in the following paragraph, the same caveat is repeated “depending on circumstances, including prognosis period and subject to available capacity in the system”. Because they have only limited capacity, the inference is that claimants whose condition is unlikely to improve are less likely to have a reassessment.
Though given the DWP’s optimism when it comes to the prognosis for any given condition, the reassessment net could still be cast quite wide.
The reality is though, that the vast majority of current LCWRA/support group claimants will almost certainly be spared a further reassessment, if the DWP follows through with its current plans to end reassessments for existing claimants with LCWRA in 2025.
But that will be scant reassurance to individual claimants, who can never be certain that they will not be one of the unlucky ones.
Do remember, though, that if you are called for a reassessment, it will be under the current rules, as would any subsequent appeal even if it takes place after any new regulations are introduced. And the success rate for reassessments remains very high.
Figures from December 2022 show that the percentage of DWP decisions for repeat WCAs was:
- 83% of outcomes for Support Group
- 13% of outcomes were for Work Related Activity Group
- 4% of outcomes were found Fit for Work
So, the probability of the DWP undertaking a mass reassessment programme on current claimants before the proposed changes to the WCA, as some people fear, is close to zero.