Documents to download

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) replaced incapacity benefits for new claims from October 2008. There are two forms of ESA: contributory ESA, for those who have a sufficient National Insurance contribution record; and income-related ESA, which is means-tested. To be eligible for ESA, a person must undergo a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and be found to have a “limited capability for work.“ If they are also found to have a “limited capability for work-related activity” they are placed in the “Support Group” (SG); otherwise they are placed in the “Work-Related Activity group” (WRAG) and may be required to undertake “work-related activity.” This can involve participation in the Work Programme. ESA claimants do not however have to be available for work or apply for jobs.

Existing claimants of incapacity benefits (Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support for incapacity for work) were not initially affected by the introduction of ESA, but in late 2010 a programme began under which around 1.5 million people are being reassessed for ESA. This is due to be completed in spring 2014. To date, over 1.1 million incapacity benefit claimants have been reassessed, and around a fifth have been found “Fit for Work.” Of those “migrated” to ESA since reassessment started, around half have been placed in the Support Group, but the most recent statistics on reassessment outcomes suggest that a far higher proportion are being placed in the SG.

The IB reassessment programme has continued against the backdrop of the ongoing controversy surrounding the WCA and the role of Atos Healthcare, the contractor which undertakes assessments on behalf of the DWP. Welfare rights organisations and pressure groups have long voiced concerns about the WCA and about the way it is applied. Changes have been made to the WCA following internal reviews and a succession of independent reviews, but many believe that the process is still not “fit for purpose.”

In July 2013 the Government announced that it was taking immediate action to address an “unacceptable reduction in the quality of written reports” produced by Atos, following an internal audit. On 27 March 2014 DWP announced the early exit of Atos from the WCA contract. The Government hopes that a new contractor will be in place to deliver assessments by 2015. The implications for IB reassessments are unclear, but the Ministerial statement said that in the meantime the Department would focus on the delivery of assessments for those making new claims for ESA and claimants whose condition changes.

Documents to download

Related posts