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ESA reassessment exemptions – are the Tories reinventing the wheel?

When work and pensions secretary Damian Green announced that employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants with severe conditions which will not improve will not be subject to repeat work capability assessments (WCAs), he was not coming up with a new idea.

In fact under the personal capability assessment (PCA), the old test for incapacity benefit (IB), there were a range of severe conditions which exempted you from having to be assessed at all. You could even be exempted if you were in receipt of certain benefits.

DLA exemption
The most important exemption from being assessed for IB was that if you received disability living allowance (DLA) care component at the highest rate you were exempt from the PCA.

If you were assessed as 80% disabled for disablement benefit, War Pension or Severe Disablement Allowance purposes you were also exempt.

Severe conditions
There were also a range of exemptions for claimants with severe conditions. These included:

• people who were terminally ill

• people who were registered blind

• people who were suffering from the following severe medical conditions:

– a severe mental illness involving the presence of mental disease, which severely and adversely affects a person’s mood or behaviour, and which severely restricts their social functioning, or their awareness of their immediate environment

– tetraplegia

– paraplegia, or uncontrollable involuntary movements or ataxia which effectively render the sufferer functionally paraplegic

– persistent vegetative state

– severe learning disabilities

– severe and progressive neurological or muscle-wasting diseases

– active and progressive forms of inflammatory polyarthritis

– progressive impairment of cardio-respiratory function which severely and persistently limits effort tolerance

– dementia

– dense paralysis of the upper limb, trunk and lower limb on one side of the body

– multiple effects of impairment of function of the brain and/or nervous system causing severe and irreversible motor sensory and intellectual deficits

– manifestation of severe and progressive immune deficiency states characterised by the occurrence of severe constitutional disease or opportunistic infections or tumour formation.

Clearly for some conditions, such as being registered blind, the exemption was largely straightforward.

For others, especially severe mental illness, claimants often had to go to tribunal to prove their eligibility.

How much will be revived?
The big question now is to what extent will the DWP simply reinstate the old PCA exemptions, even if they are now only for reassessments rather than initial assessments?

At this stage it seems unlikely that being in receipt of DLA or PIP will lead to exemptions, but some of the other criteria may well find themselves being brought back into service.

Who knows, slowly and over the course of more years, we may even find ourselves back in a world where doctors and consultants have the final say in whether their patients are fit for work.


+1 #6 PJday 2016-10-13 20:18
I am being assessed for PIP - as a migration from DLA higher mobility and care - when I asked for my medical evidence to be added to my PIP application the DWP replied 'there was no evidence in my DLA file'. Now, when I applied for DLA I sent letters from my consultant and the DWP sent a doctor to my home to do an assessment - they have NO record of this. Is this why those on DLA are now ALL being re-assessed - because someone from the DWP has destroyed our medical evidence??
+3 #5 stuart52 2016-10-12 09:23
the sad reality is that the examples listed above should never have had to be assessed as 'fit for work', i would have thought it was obvious to anyone that the examples above are not and probable never will be, still what can we expect from a government like this?i have just been awarded the enhanced rate of both components of PIP for 10 years, i am still on IS and cant help but wonder if i will actualy get a migration letter to ESA,so far i havent been through the dreadful process so my heart goes out to those that have, if certaincatagori es dont have to do it again thats nice but like i said they should never have done it at all.
#4 Bill24chev 2016-10-11 18:08
The simplest way to exempt claimants from WCA would be to go back to using higher RATE DLA/Enhanced PIP care but I would also probably expect a tightening on the Enhanced PIP criteria.
so it will be a strings and roundabout exercise
+3 #3 tintack 2016-10-11 13:10
Quoting Eli48:
I read that those in the support group, those with the severest illnesses/disabilities, (and not those sadly in the WRAG) were to be exempted. Is that still true?

Yes, although we don't know who will decide who those "with the severest illnesses/disab ilities" are. If it's decided by the DWP you can be sure the criteria will be so tight that very few people will qualify, especially if it's based on a tick-list of specific conditions.

If they use some common sense (yes, I know, airborne pigs etc.), it should be enough if someone has already been found unfit for work, placed in the support group, and their doctor/consulta nt states that there is no realistic chance of any significant improvement in their condition.
#2 Eli48 2016-10-11 11:38
I read that those in the support group, those with the severest illnesses/disab ilities, (and not those sadly in the WRAG) were to be exempted. Is that still true?
+4 #1 tintack 2016-10-11 02:24
Who knows, slowly and over the course of more years, we may even find ourselves back in a world where doctors and consultants have the final say in whether their patients are fit for work.
That's how it should be, but the whole point of the WCA was to sideline claimants' doctors and actual medical expertise as much as possible, and to rely instead on the BPS cobblers, so I won't hold my breath.

Just having a tick-list of qualifying conditions is no good. There are illnesses which affect people very differently: one person may find medication allows them to manage it well enough to work, whereas someone else with the same illness may have more severe symptoms and find that no medication works, so moving into employment is therefore out of the question. No tick-list of conditions can allow for that.

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