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DWP deny work capability assessments to disabled students

24 May 2017

The DWP has confirmed to DR UK that it will not enable disabled students claiming Universal Credit (UC) to have the opportunity of a work capability assessment (WCA).

In most cases, this means that their claim for Universal Credit will be immediately refused.

Under Employment Support Allowance (ESA), a disabled student can be treated as having a limited capability for work and entitled to ESA if they receive DLA or PIP.

However, a disabled student must not only receive DLA or PIP but also have a limited capability for work to be entitled to UC.

A disabled student can only be “treated as having a limited capability for work” under UC in very restricted circumstances (See Schedule 8 and Schedule 9 of the The Universal Credit Regulations 2013).

But most disabled students will not otherwise be able to show that they have a limited capability for work as they will be denied a WCA.

DR UK contacted the DWP to ask if a disabled student’s UC claim could be held at least until a WCA had taken place.

It replied that:

“Your understanding of Regulation 41 in the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 is correct: a person who meets entitlement conditions for UC is referred for a work capability assessment where appropriate. 

As the work capability assessment is not part of determining whether a person is entitled to UC, determining entitlement to UC cannot be delayed until a person has had a work capability assessment.”

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Right’s Adviser said:

“We are concerned that the UC system does not allow a disabled student to be assessed as to their limited capability for work.

It puts them in a Catch 22 situation – they cannot be entitled to UC unless they have a WCA but they cannot have a WCA unless they are entitled to UC.

There seems no justification for replacing ESA rules by stricter UC ones given that other financial support for disabled students has not increased to compensate for this.”

Liz Sayce DR UK’s CEO said:

“Only 16% of disabled people have a degree level qualification compared to 30% of non-disabled people.

We are concerned that the current UC position could act as a financial barrier to disabled people accessing higher education and bar some from accessing residential college if they are unable to access UC housing costs support.”

ESA and Housing Benefit are being replaced by Universal Credit as it is rolled out across the UK.

If a disabled student is not eligible for Universal Credit they will not get help with extra living costs or rent.

DR UK is keen to hear from people about the value of ESA and Housing Benefit to disabled students: with details of your situation and why they are important.

We wish to use these examples in our advice to all major political parties. From what we know so far, we will be calling on political parties to make adjustments to the UC rules.

It will help our analysis if we can gather stories about how receiving ESA and especially Housing Benefit has made a difference to your ability to study, or especially what the consequences would have been if this income was not available to you.

Any relevant examples, please send to our student helpline students@disabilityrightsuk.org.