The DWP consultation on making the work capability assessment for universal credit and ESA much harsher ends on 30 October.

Benefits and Work has so far avoided giving any guidance on how to respond because we do not want to be seen to be leading people.

However, this comment from Joe made us rethink that position:

 “Please help us to respond. It's not enough to provide us with the anxiety provoking news about the proposed changes. We need help to make points when responding. It's hard for those with energy limiting conditions or those that produce brain fog to make clear points. In order to be informed, we have to become terrified, which then makes us less able to respond. Please give us guidance as it otherwise is simply too scary to engage with.”

 So, we have produced some ‘talking points’ to help those who might find them useful in creating their own responses, though there are undoubtedly many more issues that could be covered.  Unfortunately, the information is still detailed and complex.

But the most important thing is to tell the DWP whether or not you are in favour of the idea of making the WCA much more difficult to score points for.  You don’t have to give detailed answers or answer every question – just pick one or two points to make. 

If the DWP receive thousands of responses and most of them are on the same side, then that will be sufficient

In order to respond, you can complete the anonymous form, but it is deliberately designed to keep your answers within very narrow limits – there isn’t even an ‘Anything else you would like to tell us’ box.

Or you can simply send an email telling the DWP whatever you choose to:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You can read more about the consultation here.

Other responses

As well as considering the points below, readers may want to take a look at the very detailed response to the consultation by the National Association of welfare Rights Workers, which was based on contributions from over 150 organisations.

In addition, Disabled People Against Cuts have published a detailed response from the DPO Forum England, which they are happy for individuals and organisations to make use of.  DPAC are also arranging a protest against the WCA changes outside Caxton House, London on 30 October.

Are there suitable, full homeworking opportunities for sick and disabled claimants?

The DWP consultation claims that “Working at home brings new opportunities for disabled people to manage their conditions in a more familiar and accessible environment.”

However, hybrid working – spending part of the week in a workplace and part of the week at home - is much more common than solely working from home. The ONS says in its latest report that 16% of workers work from home only, compared to 28% who do hybrid work.

Would hybrid working be suitable for people with very limited mobility, frequent incontinence, an inability to get about or an inability to mix with other people or would they require full homeworking?

People in the highest paid jobs are most likely to work from home according to ONS.  80% of workers earning £50,000 or more reported home or hybrid working, compared to only 14% of those earning up to £10,000. 

Which end of the earnings spectrum are long-term sick and disabled claimants likely to be on?

The ONS also found that disabled workers were not more likely to have the opportunity to work from home than other workers:

 “Having a disability or long-term illness had little effect on levels of homeworking. Disabled workers reported similar levels of homeworking only (18%) compared with those without a disability (16%).”

So, it does not appear, on the face of it, that employers are offering “new opportunities for disabled people to manage their conditions”.

Are there increasing job opportunities for disabled claimants or is the job market contracting? 

At the Conservative party conference, chancellor Jeremy Hunt claimed that “even when companies are struggling to find of [sic] workers, around 100,000 people are leaving the labour market every year for a life on benefits”.

But are companies really struggling to find workers.  According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), on 18 October 2023:

“the wider economic slowdown in the jobs market is beginning to bite. The latest data suggests unemployment has risen faster in the past two months than the Bank of England had predicted for the entire coming year, with workers in typically lower paying and less secure sectors at greatest risk”.

So, according to the JRF, the only sort of employment many long-term sick and disabled claimants are likely to be offered is actually in decline.  When the rapid rise of AI in relation to areas such as call centre work is also factored in, job opportunities for many disabled claimants are likely to be even scarcer.

What is the explanation for the big rise in the number of claimants placed in the LCWRA and LCW groups?

The consultation document states that: 

“The proportion of Limited Capability for Work and Work-related Activity (LCWRA) outcomes at WCA has risen significantly since the activities and descriptors were last reviewed, from 21% in 2011 to 65% in 2022.”

In his conference speech, referring to these figures, Rishi Sunak asked:

“Are people three times sicker today than they were a decade ago?

 “No, of course not …it is not fair on taxpayers who have to pick up the bill…”

And yet, neither Sunak nor the DWP have made any attempt to discover why the numbers have increased so dramatically.  Or if they have, they are keeping it secret.

After all, claimants can’t make the decision about which group they are put in.  The DWP does that. So, it’s the DWP who have trebled the number of people in those groups.

So, what has changed?

Have they altered the guidance to assessors over the years?

Has the massive rise in hospital waiting lists played a part?

Or the lack of mental health treatment, especially for young people?

Or the pandemic?

The important question is:  should the DWP be making massive changes to the WCA when they haven’t published any research on the causes of the problem they are supposedly trying to fix?

Will ‘firm sanctions’ help disabled claimants get into work?

Mel Stride, the secretary of state for work and pensions promised his party conference

“a far more demanding approach with claimants at particular risk of becoming long-term unemployed.  This includes far more frequent work-focused requirements, with firm sanctions for those who fail to fulfil their commitments and more support for those who need it.”.

Will sick and disabled claimants who no longer score enough points under the new WCA be regarded as at risk of becoming long-term unemployed and thus subject to a much harsher sanctions regime?

Will private sector style bonuses for Jobcentre staff help sick and disabled claimants into work?

Mel Stride also told the conference “we’ve been testing new incentive schemes for our best performing Job Centre teams. Recognising and rewarding those heroes who go above and beyond to improve the lives of others.

 “The sort of approach that is common practice in successful parts of the private sector. And if its good enough for the private sector then it should be good enough for the public sector too.”

What effect will this have on the increased number of disabled claimants found fit for work under the revised WCA? 

Is there a risk they will be ‘parked’ and forgotten about because it is difficult to make money out of them, as used to happen in the past? 

Or will they be pushed into unsuitable employment or self-employment, something that also used to happen in the past, in order to boost bonuses for jobcentre staff?

Will there be enough work coaches?

Will there be enough work coaches  to cope with the rise in the number of clients? 

As we reported earlier this month the PCS union has warned of “staffing chaos” at the DWP, with work coach roles being particularly affected.

To deal with shortages, the DWP is reducing the frequency of work coach contact with some claimants from fortnightly to monthly and shortening some meetings from 50 minutes to 30 minutes.

At the Conservative party conference the Chancellor announced an end to civil service expansion with an immediate cap on the civil service headcount, with a view to reducing it to pre-pandemic levels.

It is very hard to see how DWP work coaches will cope with a huge increase in the number of claimants found fit for work or placed in the LCW group  if they can’t even cope with the current workload.

Is it necessary to take £390 a month off claimants and threaten them with sanctions in order to give them the opportunity to try to move into work?

Are there other ways of helping disabled claimants to try to move towards work, without massively cutting their income and threatening even more cuts via sanctions?

For example, could the DWP pilot a system where claimants in the LCWRA group can try work, with an absolute guarantee that if they find they can’t cope within the first 12 month they can return to the same group without a further assessment?

Mobilising activity

If the mobilising activity is removed completely, has any estimate been made of how many people who are currently assessed as LCWRA will be found to have LCW or fully fit for work?

If not, why not and if so, why has it not been published so that people have all the information they need to make a judgement?

Likewise, if the LCWRA distance is reduced to 20 metres, what estimate has been made of how many current members of that group will be found to have LCW or found fully fit for work?

Is it appropriate that people with profound mobility issues may be regarded as fully fit for work? 

In practice, how would this be managed in terms of work-focused interviews and job hunting?

The consultation document states that:  “People assessed as LCW have tailored employment support to prepare for work.” 

By reducing the points awarded for the LCW mobilising descriptors, one of the options up for consideration, the DWP would simply be ensuring that fewer disabled claimants got that tailored support.  Instead they would be found fully fit for work and subject to the full sanctions regime.  

In what way would that make it easier for disabled claimants to move into sustainable employment?

The same, or similar questions can be asked about the other activities being consulted on:

  • Absence or loss of bowel/bladder control
  • Coping with Social Engagement due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder 
  • Getting About

Substantial risk

The substantial risk regulations are a literal lifesaver for many thousands of claimants.  To consult on removing or drastically reducing them without any published research on the likely effects seems grossly irresponsible.

How would the DWP monitor the effects of any changes to the substantial risk rules in terms of an increase in the number of claimants harming themselves?

Work coaches currently receive only a few hours training in mental health.  How much additional training would they receive in order to be able to safely judge what work preparation would be appropriate for individuals with a wide range of profound mental health issues?

Why is the DWP asking for views on how people at substantial risk of harming themselves or others ‘can be safely supported within the LCW risk group’?   Surely this is a judgement that can only be made by skilled and highly experienced health professionals on a case-by-case basis, not by asking the general public if they have any bright ideas?

Will the DWP continue to shroud their investigations into the link between benefits decisions and the death of claimants in as much secrecy as possible, even if they change the regulations in a way that is overwhelmingly likely to increase the number of such deaths?


Write comments...
or post as a guest
People in conversation:
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    John Fox (x333xxx) · 6 months ago

    I submitted my consultation response (online) and append below what I said at relevant points in the consultation.

    The paragraph numbers correlate to the question number in the consultation.

    1 - What are your views on the three Mobilising options?

    To remove the Mobilising activity altogether seems daft in the extreme! By removing it you are making an assumption that anyone with a mobility impairment is fit for work.

    However such an impairment is often (and in my case is) a barrier to gaining employment - and goodness knows I have tried so hard to find a way around my own.

    If I must choose one of the three options (there should be a fourth 'Something else') then it would be No.2 (to bring into line with the equivalent descriptor for PIP).

    By the way, the mobilising descriptor ought to cover standing still, ie, can the claimant stand still 'on the spot' and how long for (or why can't they do it)?

    4/5 - What are your views on the two Getting About options, and are there any other WCA activities or descriptors that you think we should be considering changes to and why?

    The activities and descriptors upon which life changing decisions are made by DWP are too limited in their scope.

    a) They need to be updated to reflect modern life/society/working practices.

    b) Each activity needs its scope broadened significantly so that no one falls through the cracks (not getting a score because their impairment is not listed or taken into account).

    c) In a digital society there should be an assessment of capability for working in a digital environment. That would help identify people with digital skills that can help with acquiring employment as well as highlighting those who would benefit from skills training.

    7 - What do you think would be the impact of these changes?

    Rather like the unemployed generally, the attitude from government is very much presuming that benefit claimants are 'playing the system', out for anything they can get, and doing everything they can to avoid returning to employment. There will certainly be some in the populace to whom that accusation would stand up, but please don't tar everyone with the same brush.

    That presumption has been all too apparent in my recent application for PIP. It was declined not once but twice. I subsequently gathered additional supporting evidence and managed to get a zero award for Mobility changed to Enhanced, and I’ve recently won an appeal for Daily Living component.

    What's happened to the compassionate society? Practising empathy with peoples' individual situation and challenges?

    I am not receiving any more benefit that I am entitled to. I don’t feel guilty that I am ‘sponging on the state’ because I have worked for over 45 years and paid my National Insurance. The social security system is there to help folk in need, and I’m not receiving anything that I am not entitled to, and have funded through 45 years’ worth of NI contributions.

    Yet government and society often regard those of us who are genuinely in need and who have paid their stamp for so many years as shirkers, good for nothing layabouts. Sure, some will inevitably fit the bill, but I suspect the vast majority do not and that needs to be recognised by government.

    These proposed changes have nothing to do with helping disabled people back into work. What are we meant to do? Go and work at Amazon or in a bar ‘because it is a job’?

    These proposals only serve to stigmatise us even more than we already are - as though we are feckless. Our lives are already limited, and this government seems intent on making us feel even more marginalised and, in my view, attempting to turn the rest of society against us.

    I don’t know who wrote the script for all of this but they should be ashamed. And maybe trying living life with a disabling impairment for a month. They’d soon better appreciate the weaknesses in this strategy.

    10 - How can this group be safely supported within the LCW risk group?

    NB: So I've used this answer field to include:

    Nowhere on this form did it ask me to provide my name and contact details. So I'm using this field to do that.

    That suggests to me, as a citizen, that government isn't really interested what individual citizens have to say about these proposals. Surely it is critical to revising the policy that individual opinions expressed can be signposted when discussions within DWP take place?

    How can anyone contact me to ask me to clarify any points I've raised, or to seek additional information on my suggestions?

    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      frances · 6 months ago
      @John Fox (x333xxx) I so agree with you. I too sent my reply on line! 40 years working and stopped due to lack of support in work. Making me question my ability mentally to work let alone physically and anybody within my workplace showing any support. I spent nearly 2 years with decreasing mobility, increased pain and trying to get my employers to support me. It ended with my realisation they didnt plan to include me being in fact disability discrimmination as well as constructive dismissal. I even tried returning to work with mentoring, only to find it wasnt there. In fact i found mentalky i couldnt even take on another job because mentally as soon as i was in that confrontations aspect of a job i couldnt cope. I took my employment issues to court employment tribunal. How funny they settled out of court.
      I set up working for myself with plans to refuce my physical work in the future with plans to include my daughter back to work as she was a single mum and resession killed that.
      My health isdues increased and had to claim PIP.
      But im only one individual that wanted to work. They dont get we are individual persons with different disabilities and they cannot dilute the descriptives and lump us all in box of lazy, scamming individuals.
      Until they accept this, we will continue to be discriminated against.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Bee · 6 months ago
    Substantial risk Is not just for the safety of the claimant but also those who come into interaction with the claimant 

    Someone who think that someone currently benefiting from the ‘substantial risk’ element (and have no/little interaction currently) may think these ppl are just taking advantage of the system but may change their mind if one of these SR people is ‘encouraged’ to work in the same workplace as them

    The reality is that many like the in society would rather the ill and disabled be seen but not heard (or not even seen) - it’s just something the average person doesn’t think about or answer till it directly affects them (and prefer those of us who can hide our disabilities, even though that could impact us negatively)
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    CC · 6 months ago
    I have managed to get a manager I know to respond, here is what she put.

    "The reality is 20m is actually 10m, as usually when you go somewhere, you have to go back again, its a two way trip.

    As a manager working at a company that employs 1000s of people, there would not be a chance we would employ someone with such severe mobility problems, they are a health and safety liability waiting to happen and we cant take that risk, we would also have to place their desk next to the entrance of the building next to a toilet cubicle and with a canteen to the other side of them, it would be the only way we would have any resemblance of safe working conditions,  I hope you appreciate how silly this is.and it is clear there has been no consultation with employers as no one would agree to employ someone with such severe health problems."
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    CC · 6 months ago
    I am going to respond, but will try to using an email address that cant identify me.

    I think the main falling block of these proposals is that LCWRA doesnt not require the DWP to not contact and offer gentle support for people in LCWRA back into work, it just removes the obligation for the claimant to do work related activity, so if they want more activity in the LCWRA group, all they need to do is proactively contact people asking if they are interested in schemes (optional without sanctions) that might help them, or advice on health treatment, lack of support circle etc.  Then also add a change to the rules so that trying to go back to work cannot be used against you on a WCA.

    The idea of just docking points and changing criteria to get the numbers down means its just a blatant money saving exercise operated under the pretence there is loads of genuine working from home jobs available.  For this reason I do expect them to ignore negative feedback, but regardless I will take part.

    Failing that I would prefer a flat reduction to LCWRA payments vs them kicking many off it altogether, as horrible as it would be, its the lesser evil.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    The Dog mother · 6 months ago
    Well, as I've previously stated, I sleep off and on a fair bit during the day, I have to. There's no way around it. 
    Or if not sleeping, then I have to lie down at least,I won't go into full details as to why, but it's because of more than one of my health conditions.I rarely go out, and if I need to always accompanied.A close family member got married three weeks ago,I didn't attend ,i dont go to any family function,I am extremely bad at social interaction. I well up with panic. Anyway. If this all goes through it will be an ordeal for us. I'm already in panic mode. All they're doing is making us more unwell. It's ten years until retirement age for me. It can't come soon enough. I don't want to be older , I know how badly I've suffered with the decline in my health ,though I've done everything I can to try and stay well from eating as healthy as I can afford, I don't drink or smoke,never have done, it's never been enough. It's terrible to think that if you live to retirement age it may be your only saviour. 
    Other than Labour changing or halting this fiasco I can see no way out of it. But it's on my mind 24-7.
    I hope it never gets implemented.  
    I read other folks comments on here and realise I'm not alone in how i feel,far from it. It's just not right in anyone's book how we are treated now ,never mind as time goes by. I fear for the not too distant future. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    JC · 6 months ago
    It MUST be emphasized is that WFH jobs aren't appropriate for those who struggle with socializing. They still require telephone calls, zoom meetings and instant messaging.      

    What about the job interview itself? what about having to interact with JCP or work coaches? You'll still need to interact with your manager, etc.                  
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Fred · 6 months ago
      @CC Not only are the jobs not available,but  the ones that maybe, abled or disabled,  cannot financially survive on them. And if so, will be tied up in miles of red tape due to the ludicrous bureaucratic universal credit system. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      JC · 6 months ago
      The Equality Act 2010 actually compels them to narrow the claimant commitment to include only work that the individual is capable of doing. The problem with these reforms is that people classified as needing to prepare for work may indeed have no work they are capable of doing or realistically obtaining.

      It's just a callous attempt to reduce the amount of benefit paid by reclassifying them under the false pretense that remote working provides them more opportunities.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      CC · 6 months ago
      @JC A big issue also, is that these jobs are not widely available, you still need to live close to the company, as they usually not true remote working, so will be concentrated in specific regions, my sisters company every single WFH is given out internally to existing employees, most of who are managers, all external is working on site, every advert I have seen on the net (there isnt many) requires you to go in at least 1-2 days a week 'and' work set hours.

      Also are we to believe that even if we ignore the loss of financial support, that the JCP are going to accept people have job search agreements with a very narrow job criteria they can do?  They already dont allow that and would likely tell the claimant they dont meet UC criteria.  So even though this is under the pretence of WFH, I expect anyone hustled over to fit to work, is going to be hassled into jobs they totally not capable of doing.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Aw · 6 months ago
      @JC Exactly. My main difficulties in being employed are to do with interpersonal dysfunction, especially with authority figured such as DWP staff or bosses. My depression & executive function failures preclude me being able to work at home as a self employed person, I don't have the capacity to do what it would take.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    AY · 6 months ago
    there consultation is just a farce, i bet they have made there cruel minds up alraedy.
    and ready with the red hot pokers.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      CC · 6 months ago
      You not wrong actually, I examined the disability white paper.

      There is something very interesting on it, no one picked up on.

      It shows a gradual increase of spending on childcare, and over the same time period it shows a very large drop in spending on sickness benefits.  More than half.

      The time frame is before the scrapping of ESA proposals, so this could only mean there was already a plan (not announced at time of budget) to get that spending down.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    T · 6 months ago
    Just submitted mine. The more if us that does the better. We can at least try anyway. I wasn't going to sudmitt one but I decided to use it as a way to vent and get my feelings across. Not that I expect them to actually care or anything....  we need to let the idiots know that they are not helping us at all with any if these possible changes and that they are already being detrimental to our illnesses. We shouldn't have to worry like this over something that is supposed to help us.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    tintack · 6 months ago
    I've already filled out the online consultation form so it's too late for me to include the points in this article. However, there must be a suspicion that the DWP will use the "work from home" excuse to do whatever it was planning to do anyway unless there is a sufficiently fierce pushback, so I hope as many people as possible respond in the time remaining. The main point to get across is surely that seriously debilitating medical conditions do not magically become less serious just because you  happen to be at home rather than in a public place.

    Given Vicky Foxcroft's statement that Labour would not go ahead with the descriptor changes if they win the election, the ideal scenario is that they stick to that, win the election and consign these wretched proposals to the rubbish bin. In that case it would all be rendered academic anyway. Here's hoping.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      John Fox (x333xxx) · 6 months ago
      @tintack There's no reason why you shouldn't submit a further observation tintack! ;-) 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      The Dog mother · 6 months ago
      @tintack I did, and I've said basically the same as yourself. I have to sleep off and on all day. My debilitating conditions dictate it. I know many of us are in a similar position. I'm in pain all day. I only get respite when and if I sleep. My latest condition still hasn't been fully diagnosed. Though the hospital and my gp are pretty sure they know what it is, but as I need further tests, I'm left in pain. I've now got at least 9 conditions. The thought of having to fight and keep fighting for benefits is bewildering. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Aw · 6 months ago
    I am unable to socially engage & that includes DWP work coachesnand any bosses or customers I would have to communicate with in order to do 100% home working. I am also in the LCWRA due to risk to my health of being forced to engage and the effect that has on me. Their prososals would mean there would be no way for me to avoid sanctions as I would fall at the first hurdle of needing to engage. To say they are removing 'inability to socially engage' from the eligibility and then to say they will sanction anybody who 'refuses to engage' is not just perverse, it's discriminatory, cruel and dangerous.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Porridge · 6 months ago
      @Aw I am fully sympathetic with you I can sustain “polite mode” for a maximum of five minutes with people who I do not fully believe have my very best interests at heart and then I just completely shut down due to more than one life-long disability. On the bright side, at least we can demand the right to require reasonable adjustments from the DWP under the Equality Act, when being assessed by any of its workers or sub-contractors, and if it does not comply with those requirements it is liable to be sued by us and put in its place by the justice system.
We use cookies

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.