As people are probably already aware, the ME Association belongs to the DWP fluctuating conditions group (FCG), which advises the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and medical assessment organisations on benefit issues – Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) assessments in particular.
The DWP has been working with the fluctuating conditions and mental health groups to update and improve the ESA50 form.
The new form is now in circulation and will soon be available for downloading from the DWP website.
No ESA50 form has had this level of customer insight devoted to it and the new form contains some significant improvements.
MAJOR CHANGES INCLUDE:
* Colour coding the mental health section so it is clearly separate from the physical conditions section. This will help ESA applicants to only complete the sections that are relevant to their conditions.
* Emphasising that applicants can include information on fluctuating conditions – such as ME/CFS.
* Including the ‘Reliably, Repeatedly and Safely' disclaimer on every assessment page – something which the FCG has consistently campaigned on.
* Providing more information on what medical evidence is helpful, including a reference to Hospital Passports.
The FCG recommended that a semi-structured interview (SSSI) should be incorporated into the ESA assessment process and this work is now completed.
The SSSI interview training and guide has now been approved by DWP.
This has gone into production and will be on the desk of every CHDA health care professional to try and ensure that fluctuating conditions, including ME/CFS, are properly assessed.
YOUR FEEDBACK WILL BE WELCOME
Feedback on both the new ESA50 form and the SSI is welcome. If you're one of the first to use the new form, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your views.
Dr Charles Shepherd
Hon Medical Adviser, ME Association
Member of the DWP Fluctuating Conditions Group