Government publishes its response to Work and Pensions Committee report on ESA and WCA

10 December 2014

The government has responded to the Committee’s report on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which was published in July this year. The response puts forward recommendations for speeding up, redesigning and improving the ESA and WCA processes. The response can be read in full here.

The Committee’s original report found that the WCA was ‘flawed… and frequently fails to provide an accurate assessment of the impact of the claimant’s condition on their fitness for work or work-related activity’. It also stated that the outcomes of the ESA claims process were ‘too simplistic’ and that the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) which many claimants find themselves in ‘covers too wide a spectrum of claimants with very different prognoses and employment support needs’.

Mark Harper, Minister of State for Disabled People acknowledges the problems with theWCA process (initially carried out by Atos) that were raised by the Committee by Dr Litchfield’s Fifth Independent Review of the WCA, also published this week. He suggests that some of these problems will be addressed by the appointment of the new contract provider Maximus, due to start 1 March 2015.

Harper states that: ‘Whilst improving the WCA is important, we need to do more to support those with disabilities and health conditions to stay in or return to work. Work is almost always good for health and most disabled people and people with health conditions can and want to work, provided they have the right support’.

In his Fifth Independent Review Dr Litchfield called for a ‘period of stability’, adding that ‘If any new assessment is designed, the fundamental question of whether health related capability for work is the criterion that society wishes to use to determine benefit levels should first be considered.’