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The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) were introduced in October 2008. ESA provides financial support for people with a health condition or illness that prevents them from working. The WCA assesses a claimant’s capability for work.

The WCA was developed in consultation with medical and other experts alongside specialist disability groups. It looks at an individual’s physical and mental capabilities and concentrates on the functional effects of an individual’s condition rather than the condition itself. It looks at an individual’s ability to work, taking into account the modern workplace and developments in healthcare.

ESA claimants are assessed during the first 13 weeks of their claim (or longer if necessary) to determine whether they have a “limited capability for work”, in which case they are placed in the “Work Related Activity Group”. If claimants are also found to have “limited capability for work-related activity”, they are placed in the “Support Group”. ESA is paid at an assessment rate during this time. Claimants not placed in the Work Related Activity Group or the Support Group are deemed “fit for work”.

This note outlines the end to end Work Capability Assessment process. It looks at the methods of assessment and the criteria for decision-making based on an individual’s functional capability. It also examines recent changes to the assessment, including changes to the reconsideration and appeals process, and new regulations for repeat claims. The note also outlines the arrangements for the DWP medical services contract.

The note does not examine comments and criticisms of the WCA.

Documents to download

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