The Disability Benefits Consortium has submitted evidence to the third independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance, which is being carried out by Professor Malcolm Harrington.
Previous reviews have criticised the system as ‘impersonal, mechanistic and lacking in clarity’ and made a number of recommendations to improve the WCA, all of which have been accepted by the DWP.
However, our evidence, drawn from information gathered directly from welfare rights advisors and disabled people, shows that although there have been some improvements, these have been minor, and there is still an awful lot of work to do to improve the assessments. The DBC highlighted that it is not possible to suggest just one key improvement to be made to the process – improving the WCA will require a wide range of measures working together.
The DBC submission has been highly praised by Prof Harrington, who has stated that he’s likely to draw heavily on our evidence and recommendations in his report, due to be published later in the Autumn.
Our key recommendations included:
- Giving claimants better information on their right to request a home visit if necessary, the ESA decision, reasons for the decision, and what it means for them.
- Improving the ESA50 claim form
- Changing the WCA descriptors to better reflect the impact of complex and fluctuating conditions, including in particular mental health condition
- A greater use of additional evidence from professionals who know the claimant best at all stages of the assessment process, and a duty on decision makers to consider proactively gathering evidence where it is not provided
- Claimants should be assessed wherever possible by assessors with an understanding of their condition, and training and guidance should be improved for all assessors
- Better monitoring by the DWP