ESA Working Capability Assessment descriptor review – help wanted

Following publication of Professor Malcolm Harrington’s review of the Working Capability Assessment (WCA) in November 2010, Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment, asked Professor Harrington to assess the two groups of WCA descriptors that currently relate to (a) mental, intellectual and cognitive functioning and (b) fluctuating conditions such as ME/CFS.

A group from Mind, Mencap and the National Autistic Society was set to up assess the mental health descriptors. This group has already produced a report that is now being considered and commented on by a group of independent experts.

The second group, looking at fluctuating conditions, consists of representatives from Arthritis Care, the MS Society, National Aids Trust, Parkinson’s UK and the ME/CFS charities that form the Forward ME Group, which is chaired by the Countess of Mar. The presence of an ME/CFS representative (Dr Charles Shepherd from The MEA) on this WCA descriptor group was largely due to an initiative by the Countess of Mar.

The remit for the fluctuating conditions group is to provide recommendations for further refining and improving the WCA descriptors so that they will more effectively identify the right people for the Limited Capacity for Work and Limited Capability for Work Related Activity Groups. This group has just started work and has to complete their report by the end of April.

The MEA already has more than enough evidence relating to the problems people with ME/CFS are facing with all aspects of ESA applications.

But we do require some very specific help with regard to short case histories which describe a person’s disability in relation to certain specific descriptors and the way in which the current wording of the relevant WCA descriptor makes it very difficult for people with ME/CFS to score points.

A number of short anonymised case histories will be included in the report.

So if you have any evidence of how one of these descriptors listed below has not worked in the case of ME/CFS please could you provide a short summary of your disability and why the WCA descriptor failed to reflect the problem you face with walking, cognitive function etc.

The case history must be related to a specific WCA descriptor from this list:

• walking
• standing and sitting
• remaining conscious during waking moments
• memory and concentration
• getting about

It should not be more than 100 words.

Responses should be sent to – for attention of Dr Shepherd.

The MEA response to the Professor Harrington’s review of WCA can be found here:


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