You can keep up with all the latest news on changes to the work capability assessment (WCA) for universal credit (UC) and employment and support allowance (ESA) on this page.
Abolition of the Work Capability Assessment
The government is proposing to abolish the work capability assessment (WCA), the test used to decide if a claimant is fit for work.
At present, a universal credit (UC) claimant or employment and support allowance (ESA) claimant can be placed in one of three groups:
LCWRA (UC) – limited capability for work-related activity/ Support group (ESA). Claimants in this group get an additional payment and do not have to undertake any work-related activities
LCW – limited capability for work. Claimants in this group have to move towards seeking work and are subject to sanctions, but are not obliged to apply for jobs.
FFW – fit for work. Claimants in this group have to seek work and are subject to the full range of sanctions.
Under the proposed new system, a claimant who receives any rate of PIP will receive an extra health element, paid in their UC.
But no-one will have a WCA and no-one will be deemed to have LCWRA or LCW.
Instead, medically unqualified work coaches will judge what, if any, work or work-related activity a claimant is able to undertake.
This new system is not expected to begin to be introduced until 2026/27 for new claimants and 2029 for existing claimants.
In the meantime, the government has announced plans to make interim changes to the existing WCA, to cover the years before the WCA is abolished completely. These changes are intended to make it more difficult to be found to have LCW or LCWRA.
These interim changes to the WCA are due to be introduced in 2025.
WCA Changes Timeline
March 2023 Transforming Support: The Health and Disability White Paper is published. It proposes the abolition of the WCA.
September 2023 ‘Work Capability Assessment: Activities and Descriptors Consultation’ document is published. It is a consultation on making interim changes to the WCA prior to its complete abolition.
September 2023 ‘Proposals to abolish the Work Capability Assessment’. Commons briefing paper on the abolition of the WCA published
October 2023 Consultation on interim changes to the WCA ended on 30 October, 2023.
November 2023 DWP published its response to the work capability assessment consultation
2024 Legislation on interim changes to the WCA, to make it more stringent, scheduled to be introduced.
2025 Interim changes to the WCA scheduled take effect.
2026/27 UC health element, replacement for WCA, roll-out for new claimants to begin on a staged, geographical basis.
2029 UC health element roll-out for new claimants is completed in all geographical areas.
2029 Existing UC claimants begin to be moved onto UC health element
WCA Changes Latest News
21.11.23 Autumn statement live updates
19.10.23 WCA consultation, points to consider
15.09.23 Take the Worst Case WCA test
What you can do
Encourage organisations to speak out
The changes to the WCA are not inevitable.
If the DWP sticks to its current timetable, the new rules will not be introduced until 2025, after the election.
If Labour wins, the changes will happen on their watch.
It will be entirely within the new secretary of state’s powers to pause the introduction of the changes, if they so choose.
Labour say they are planning to reform UC anyway. So, it would make absolute sense for them to put these changes on hold whilst they carry out a review of the whole of UC, including the WCA.
If enough disability organisations lobby them on this, they may agree to do so.
Because the alternative is for Labour to ignore the protests, push ahead with these dangerous, irresponsible and unresearched changes and take the blame if the result is obvious and avoidable harms, including possible deaths of claimants.
So, the next step is for disability organisations to begin gathering evidence, providing case studies and persuading those MPs who are persuadable of the likely harm that will be caused.
Some organisations may need encouragement and support from their members to take on this work.
But there is a genuine chance of stopping these proposals.
Of course, it will then be a question of whether Labour comes up with anything better.
But that’s a battle for another day.