Paper based Assessments on ESA..
PAPER-BASED ASSESSMENTS AND THE WRAG (This is information for DWP decision makers but is quite useful.)
New ESA claimants can only be placed in the Support Group on a paper-based assessment; it is not possible for them to be placed in the WRAG without a face-to-face assessment. However, Incapacity Benefit (IB) claimants being reassessed for ESA can be placed in either the Support Group or the WRAG without a face-to-face assessment. Between autumn 2010 (when the trials of IB reassessment began) and March 2013, 214,000 IB claimants were reassessed and placed in the WRAG without a face-to-face assessment.
We also recommend that DMs give much more careful consideration to whether a claimant can be placed in the Support Group without having to undergo a face-to-face assessment. Paper-based decisions are quicker, cheaper and less stressful for claimants, and may well be possible for a greater number of claims than is currently the case. However, we do not believe that paper-based assessments are appropriate for placing people in the WRAG, as can currently happen with IB reassessments (but not ESA new claims), because moving a claimant to a lower level of benefit should be based on the widest available evidence, particularly given the additional job-search conditionality which arises from being in the WRAG. We recommend that DWP change this policy urgently so that IB claimants are not placed in the WRAG without a face-to-face assessment. .
Freedom of Information request 2015-3801 Date received 07 September 2015 Date of response 23 February 2016
DWP response The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) determines eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It is a functional assessment which looks at what a person can do rather than assuming that their health condition or disability is automatically a barrier to work. It also identifies those claimants who can work; those who require more support to move into employment and with the right support could work; as well as those who face the greatest barriers to employment and therefore are unable to work. In practice, individuals are assessed by qualified healthcare professionals against a set of qualifying descriptors. DWP decision makers will consider the healthcare professionals’ advice, along with any other appropriate evidence, when determining entitlement to ESA and which group the individual should be placed in: the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) or the Support Group (SG).
For new ESA claims, at the initial Work Capability Assessment, only SG recommendations can be made using paper evidence only. At repeat assessments and for Incapacity Benefit Reassessment (IBR), both SG and WRAG recommendations can be made using paper evidence only. No claimant can be found fit for work without undergoing a face-to-face assessment.