Benefits and Work has created an online form to allow claimants to assess themselves using the heavily reduced work capability assessment (WCA) that will be introduced if the DWP goes through with the harshest options in its recent consultation document.
The DWP are currently consulting on making it much harder to be found to have Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (LCWRA or support group in ESA) or Limited Capability for Work (LCW).
The consultation has various options, but at its most irresponsible, it proposes completely doing away with any points relating to:
- Absence or loss of bowel/bladder control
- Coping with Social Engagement
- Getting About
The justification for this by the DWP is that people can now work from home, so problems with issues like mobilising, remaining continent or coping with other people no longer matter.
How easy it is in the real world for people with very serious health conditions to get jobs where their employer never expects them to come to work is something the consultation document simply doesn’t discuss.
Equally alarmingly, the DWP are proposing to do away with the absolutely vital substantial risk rule. This rule allows you to be found to have LCWRA if there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of anyone if you were found not to have LCWRA.
It is a fundamental safeguard for people who have, for example, severe mental health issues or some forms of learning disability or neurodiversity, who may struggle to regulate their emotions if placed in situations they find distressing. They may harm themselves or lash out at others because they feel threatened or overwhelmed.
Under the proposed new rules, people in this position would, at best, be found to have LCW. They could be required to attend interviews with work coaches and to take part in training. If they failed to attend, or were judged not to have participated fully, they would then risk having their benefits sanctioned, possibly repeatedly.
What is likely to follow such sanctions is a descent into debt, increasing desperation and, as we have seen too often in the past, the end result may be the entirely avoidable death of a claimant.
According to Guy Opperman, minister for employment, work coaches receive just 6 hours and 45 minutes of mental health training. With the benefit of this training they must judge whether a claimant is choosing to be uncooperative and even apparently rude or aggressive or is prevented from participating appropriately due to their their mental health condition.
The consultation document states that 14.6% of all new claimants who are placed in the LCWRA group are there because of the substantial risk rule. There are currently a total of 2.4 million people in the LCWRA group of UC or support group of ESA.
If these changes are brought in they are likely to apply to all new claimants from some point in 2025 and to all existing UC and ESA claimants who have their claim reviewed after that date. (In addition, the DWP are still proposing to abolish the WCA entirely for new claims by 2029 and existing claims after that).
Many tens of thousands of claimants will be affected and it is very hard to see how removing the substantial risk rule would not lead to many additional claimant deaths.
Try the Worst Case WCA Test
Our WCA test is anonymous, though you can include your email address if you wish to emailed a copy of your results. The results page will tell you how many points, if any, you scored and whether you would be placed in the:
- LCWRA group
- LCW group
- Fit For Work group
Bear in mind that this is your assessment of what you would score, the DWP might reach a different conclusion.
In addition, remember this test may never be introduced. Much may depend on the level of negative feedback and concern that these proposals create.
so, if you are unhappy with what you find when you try the test, we urge you very strongly to take action before it’s too late.
There’s details of steps you can take on the results page of your test.
If you have connections with a disability charity whose users may be affected, ask them to submit a response. It doesn’t have to be very long and if they are worried that they don’t have a good enough understanding of the WCA, tell them about our absolutely free, confidential email consultancy service to help them with their submission.
Whilst individual submissions to the consultation can be anonymous and individuals’ details are always kept confidential, the DWP often publish a list of the organisations that have taken part. It would be good to see as many disability charities as possible in that list.
But time is, deliberately, short. The DWP gave no warning whatsoever that they were dropping this bombshell and have allowed only until 30 October for responses.
So please begin alerting people as quickly and widely as you can.
And, finally, if you take the test, please come back and post a comment about how you got on and what actions you are planning to take.
Warning: Please do not take the test if you think you would find the results distressing. You can still find out more and take part in the consultation by reading our article: Consultation on slashing support group launched by DWP