ESA: Changes to the Working Capability Assessment descriptors

The MEA is part of a working group set up by Professor Malcolm Harrington to review the ESA Working Capability Assessment in relation to fluctuating medical conditions.

The MEA is firmly opposed to the decision to change the descriptors before this group has reported and we are working with our parliamentary colleagues to try and get this legislation annulled.

This is a further update to the information provided in the last MEA posting:

Information regarding the forthcoming House of Lords debate to annul the legislation, which will come into force on 28 March:

Employment and Support Allowance (Limited Capability for Work and Limited Capability for Work-related Activity) (Amendment) Regulations 2011(SI 2011/228)

Date laid: 16 February 2011

Parliamentary Procedure: negative

Summary: It is clear that DWP see the implementation of the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) that underpins it as an evolving programme. In line with best practice they have reviewed the initial performance of the WCA and, having found that it is not working as well as expected, are keen to revise it, which is laudable. However, many of those involved in the consultation process, including those with considerable expertise, are expressing strong views that the current Regulations are premature and that piecemeal change will cause more harm than good. First, because there is insufficient data from the initial trial of the migration of Invalidity Benefit claimants to ESA to be clear whether the changes proposed will be an improvement. Second, there are concerns that the WCA system has not bedded in fully and the operation of the system needs to achieve greater consistency before further changes are added. Third, that the current changes may not maintain the distinctions set out in the Act between the two levels of capability and may over-estimate many individuals’ actual ability to work. And lastly, there are serious concerns about the effect on already vulnerable people from repeatedly changing the WCA eligibility descriptors. The House may wish to seek further information from DWP on the rationale for putting forward these Regulations now.

These Regulations are drawn to the special attention of the House on the grounds that they give rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House and may imperfectly achieve the policy objective.

More detailed information can be found in the 23rd Report of the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, which was published on 3 March. Click HERE to download the full 31-page report.


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