DWP Announces Major WCA Changes for New ESA and UC Claimants from 2025

Fri,24 November 2023
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Despite its work capability assessment (WCA) descriptor consultation only ending on 30 October, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has now published its full response.

While the WCA for existing claimants is not subject to change, new claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and universal credit (UC) will be subject to a revised test from 2025. 

The WCA is used in ESA and UC to determine what work-related conditions a Disabled person must meet to keep getting their benefit.   

If you are found to have a ‘limited capability for work-related activity’ (LCWRA), no work-related activity conditions will apply to you, and you will also be entitled to an extra amount of benefit.  

If you are found to have a limited capability for work  (LCW) while you have no work search conditionality, you are expected to undertake work related activity. 

The DWP says that following responses to the consultation, most of which opposed the proposals, it is to take forward the following changes: 

Chance to Work Guarantee for existing claimants on UC and ESA with LCWRA 

This change will be effective from 2025, at the same time as WCA changes are introduced. This change will in effect abolish the WCA for the vast majority of this group and is allegedly aimed at “giving people the confidence to try work” without fear of reassessment. 

Reassessments will only take place under very limited circumstances, which are: 

  • When a claimant reports a change of circumstances in their health condition; 
  • If a claimant has been awarded LCWRA for pregnancy risk, or cancer treatment where the prognosis for recovery is expected to be short-term; 
  • If a claimant has been declared as having LCWRA under the new risk provisions; and 
  • In cases of suspected fraud. 

Changes to be made to the WCA: 

From 2025 onwards, the following changes will apply to WCA activities and descriptors: 

Amending the LCWRA Substantial Risk regulations to realign Substantial Risk with its “original intention” of only applying in exceptional circumstances.  

The DWP says: “We will specify the circumstances, and physical and mental health conditions, for which LCWRA Substantial Risk should apply. This will include protecting and safeguarding the most vulnerable, including people in crisis and those with active psychotic illness. We will work with clinicians to define the criteria and what medical evidence is required from claimants and people involved in their care, to ensure the process is safe, fair, and clear. 

Removing the LCWRA Mobilising activity “because new flexibilities in the labour market mean that many people with mobilising limitations can undertake some form of tailored and personalised work-related activity with the right support”.  

“To ensure those with the most significant mobilising needs are protected we will retain the current LCWRA Substantial Risk regulations for physical health. This means that where work preparation would lead to a deterioration in a claimant’s physical health, they would still meet the eligibility for LCWRA. We will not change the LCW Mobilising activity or descriptors.” 

Reducing the points awarded for the LCW Getting About descriptors, “because new flexibilities in the labour market mean that there is less need to get to a place of work, and so limitations in getting about are less of a barrier to being able to work for some people.  

“We will retain the highest scoring descriptor, to protect those claimants who have the most significant limitations under the getting about LCW activity. 

However, the DWP will not make changes to the following WCA activities and descriptors: 

  • LCWRA or LCW Continence,  
  • LCWRA or LCW Social Engagement  

DR UK says: “We are dismayed that the Government will be going ahead with proposals to restrict eligibility for the LCW and LCWRA categories within UC and the Work-Related Activity Group and Support Group within ESA. 

“Whilst we recognise that the DWP does not intend to take forward all of the most extreme measures proposed in its recent consultation, those it is now proposing to implement are also unacceptable. 

“The decision that this will apply only to claimants newly undergoing a WCA from 2025 is of no comfort to those people who will develop severe difficulties with mobilising or getting about in the future, nor those who, in the future, are at substantial risk of self-harm, suicide, or harm to those around them but are nonetheless forced to undertake work-related activity. 

“Given the weight of opposition during the short consultation period, it is unfortunately hard to avoid the conclusion that in part its outcome was already determined. 

“The proposed changes to the WCA are less to do with helping Disabled people into work than a cynical attempt to impose conditionality and to reduce benefit expenditure."

 The Government Response to the Work Capability Assessment: Activities and Descriptors Consultation is available from gov.uk. 

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