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DR UKs statement on the new WCA reassessment guidance

06 October 2017

DR UK were one of several disability charities that took part from October 2016 in discussions with the DWP on how it should ensure that disabled people with severe, lifelong conditions were not compelled to attend unnecessary repeat WCAs.

View the new guidance

Speaking on the new guidance, Ken Butler Disability Rights UK’s Welfare Rights Adviser said:

“The WCA causes stress, fear and anxiety to many disabled people and any effective reform to reduce this must be welcome. The previous longest gap between WCAs that those who will be included in the new policy was just 3 years.

But it is an indictment of the DWP that it has taken a year for the new policy to be finalised and after nine years of the WCA being in operation.

It’s still unclear how well the new policy will operate and how many disabled people will be exempted from further reassessment by the criteria.

Disabled people would have more confidence in the WCA if assessments were carried out by doctors or specialists who had experience of their disability or health condition.

But the four criteria take a ‘tick box approach’ to enable a healthcare professional (HCP) who is not so appropriately qualified to make a recommendation. A doctor, consultant or specialist would likely weigh up such criteria without the need to be specifically told how to do so.

The DWP maintain that HCPs are employed to carry out a ‘functional’ test of ability to undertake WCA descriptors – but are OT’s, physiotherapists or nurses competent to make diagnostic decisions on long term incapacity? Will it be the case that searching on Google by HCPs will increase?

There is no need for an immediate decision to be made on whether someone should be exempt from further reassessment at the WCA itself. ESA could be awarded whilst, over a longer time period, a specialist opinion as to long term prognosis could be sought.

Such a procedure would lead to less unnecessary WCA future reassessments.

Again, while someone can appeal against a decision not to place them in the support group there is no legal right of appeal against a decision to place them in the support group but to be reassessed later.

DR UK and other disability organisations have been invited to share its concerns with the application of the criteria or groups of cases where the criteria should’ve been met. This feedback “will form part of the evaluation process”.

But in individual cases where it’s felt “there has been an error or mistake in the application of the criteria should be referred to the claimants Benefit Service Centre for action as normal”.     

However, the DWP has not set up a formal procedure whereby a disabled person can request that a decision to reassess them can be reviewed. Is this fair and who benefits? Not the disabled person or the ‘public purse’ but Maximus.

Finally, while the new criteria are an improvement on the previous situation, they don’t resolve the fundamental problems of the WCA.

To benefit from the new criteria, a disabled person must be placed in the LCWRA group. But WCA decision making is poor, with eighty per cent of mandatory reconsiderations failing but with two thirds of independent appeals succeeding.

What is needed is the development of an alternative WCA with its descriptors 'recast' to fairly reflect the true barriers disabled people face in obtaining work and identify the support that would equip disabled people with the means and the skills to overcome these barriers."