Press release

More improvements to the Work Capability Assessment will help people with cancer

Improvements to the Work Capability Assessment will mean more people suffering from cancer will get the unconditional help they need.

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

Improvements to the Work Capability Assessment, which come into force today, will mean more people suffering from cancer will get the unconditional help they need.

The changes will mean hundreds more people a year who are awaiting, receiving, or recovering from any form of chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer will be placed in the Support Group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), where they will get the long term financial support they need while unable to work.

Previously, different forms of treatment were assessed differently. But the new simpler process will mean all types of cancer treatment are seen as having the potential to be equally as debilitating. This means more people will qualify for the ESA Support Group whereas before they may have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group, where they would be expected to make efforts to return to work.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said:

People with cancer need as much help as possible and these changes will improve the way they are assessed, meaning more people getting the financial support they need at such a difficult time.

Getting the Work Capability Assessment right first time is my absolute priority, and I am committed to continually improving the process.

The new rules follow extensive work with Macmillan Cancer Support and other charities, the Royal College of Radiologists, people with cancer and their families.

The simpler process will also mean the vast majority of benefit decisions for those receiving treatment for cancer will be assessed on the supporting medical evidence without needing a face-to-face assessment.

A ‘light touch’ process for providing evidence for a person’s claim has also been developed, which will mean people don’t have to complete a lengthy questionnaire.

A number of other changes to regulations around the Work Capability Assessment also come into effect today. These do not alter existing policy but clarify areas which are open to misunderstanding. They will make the process easier to understand for claimants and assessors.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The new rules are based on evidence from specialists that it is no longer reasonable to differentiate between non-oral and oral chemotherapy.
  2. The old rules meant claimants receiving radiotherapy were often placed in the Work Related Activity Group for ESA.
  3. The new ‘light touch’ evidence gathering process will see claimants with cancer being directed to a dedicated part of the ESA50 form, meaning they don’t have to complete the whole questionnaire.
  4. Supporting medical evidence will be required from a relevant healthcare professional, which could include the claimant’s oncologist, GP or, where appropriate, a specialist cancer nurse.

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Published 28 January 2013