Incapacity Benefit to Employment Support Allowance
Thousands of people are starting to go through new Work Capability Assessments as they are moved from the old benefit to the new one
4th April 2011 - People who get Incapacity Benefit are being moved on to Employment Support Allowance by the Department of Work and Pensions.
Work Capability Assessments
Before getting the new benefit, people who get incapacity benefit have to go through a Work Capability Assessment.
What do the assessments involve? Guy Parckar, acting head of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire Disability, tells us someone would first be invited to an assessment centre. "The assessments are carried out by health care professionals," he tells us. "In the past that was always a GP, now it usually a GP, but it can be an occupational therapist or it could be nurses in some instances."
To find out if people meet the criteria to get employment support allowance, "The assessor has a computer program with a series of set questions," he says. "They're also given guidance to look for other clues, to ask questions, for example, how someone got to the appointment today. If someone walked in, that means they're ability to walk is at a certain level."
Parckar says there have been worrying stories emerging of how some people have been treated. For example: "The assessor made a judgement that they couldn’t have depression, because they had made it in to the assessment. Because they had actually arrived, clearly their mental health problems weren't as bad as they were saying they were."
The assessment gives points for different aspects of disability. For example, walking with a walking stick or other aid:
- Cannot walk at all - 15 points
- Cannot walk more than 50 metres on level ground without repeatedly stopping or severe discomfort - 15 points
- Cannot walk up or down two steps even with the support of a handrail - 15 points
- Cannot walk more than 100 metres on level ground without stopping or severe discomfort - 9 points
- Cannot walk more than 200 metres on level ground without stopping or severe discomfort - 6 points
- None of the above - 0 points
Guy Parckar says research has found a large number of people felt the score they had ended up with seemed to bear no relation to what they thought they told the assessor in the interview. "It is a computerised system and there are a lot of judgements," he tells us; "people just click 'yes' or 'no', someone does meet this criteria or doesn't. There's very little room to really make the judgements where you need greater in-depth knowledge of what someone's impairment actually is."
He says the system has been shown to be very inflexible: "Someone who was just about to start undergoing treatment for leukaemia was passed as fully fit for work because that treatment hadn't actually started yet."
If you are told you will not get ESA, but you don’t agree with the decision, you can appeal against it.