Press release

Grayling: Government reforms to the Work Capability Assessment start to show results

The Government’s commitment to provide greater protection for the severely disabled is taking effect.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Government’s commitment to provide greater protection for the severely disabled is taking effect, with the latest figures revealing an increase in the number of people assessed for the higher rate of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). However, the figures still show that the majority of people (38 per cent) are being found fit for work.

The official statistics published today also show that 17 per cent can do some work with the right help and support and a further 36 per cent of people close their claim before the assessment process is complete.

Ministers believe that the increase in the number of people going into the support group shows that the changes that the Government made to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) are starting to make a difference and more people are getting long term unconditional support.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said:

We are seeing an increase in the number of severely disabled people being given long-term unconditional support, which shows that our reforms to the work capability assessment are starting to work. “However, it’s clear that the majority of new claimants to sickness benefits are in fact able to return to work. For those that need additional help our new Work programme is up and running and will tailor support to people’s needs so that they can overcome whatever barriers they face.”

For all new ESA claims from 30th October 2008 to 28th February 2011, the result of the initial WCA is as follows:

  • Support Group - 7%
  • Work Related Activity Group - 17%
  • Fit for Work - 38%
  • Claim closed before assessment complete - 36%
  • Assessment still in progress - 2%

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which determines whether someone is fit for work, has been substantially improved. We asked Professor Harrington’s to undertake a review of the WCA and the majority of his first year recommendations are now in place. Changes have been made including making improvements to the decision making process. A second Independent Review of the WCA will be published before the end of the year.

People who are found fit for work will now be supported through the new Work Programme, which rolled out across Britain last month. The Work Programme provides tailored support for people to get into sustained employment. People who are found too sick or disabled will continue to receive unconditional support and a higher rate of benefit.

The changes we have made to the Work Capability Assessment include simplifying the language of the criteria, making greater provision for people awaiting courses of chemotherapy and people with certain communication and mental health problems, as well as taking greater account of how an individual has adapted to their condition or disability.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The full Employment and Support Allowance: Work Capability Assessments statistics are available here:
  2. The figures show that a third (36 per cent) of those who claim leave the benefit before completing the assessment.
  3. They also show that those who need ESA for a longer period get it, with 17% of new claims going into the Work Related Activity Group in ESA and 7% going into the Support Group.
  4. Professor Harrington’s first review proposed a series of recommendations to improve “its fairness and effectiveness” and we have now implemented nearly all of these recommendations.
  5. In May Professor Harrington provided an interim review of how well the Department had implemented his recommendations and concluded that “DWP have gone a long way towards implementing all the recommendations”.
  6. Professor Harrington’s second Independent Review of the WCA will be published before the end of the year.
Published 25 October 2011