Types of Assessment ESA WCA

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Work Capability Assessments

Employment and Support Allowance

Anyone who is claiming Employment and Support Allowance is required by the DWP to have an assessment - called a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) - that focuses on how their illness or condition affects them on a day-to-day basis. 

Every time the DWP refers a claim for a WCA, a questionnaire is automatically issued to the person claiming.  When the questionnaire is returned to Atos Healthcare, a fully trained healthcare professional carries out an initial paper-based assessment.  During this early check, they look for information that would indicate the person does not need to be invited for a face-to-face assessment and advise DWP accordingly. The DWP may have enough information to make an immediate decision on entitlement to benefit.

All other individuals are required by the DWP to have a face-to-face assessment.  The majority of assessments are carried out in an Atos Healthcare Assessment Centre. Where there is medical evidence confirming a person cannot leave their home and attend an Assessment Centre a home visit can be arranged. 

ESA has replaced Incapacity Benefit for all new claimants and now everyone who was already claiming incapacity benefits is gradually being reassessed for ESA.

During a claim period, it is normal for people to be asked to attend a WCA more than once and each time they will be sent a new questionnaire to ensure they have the opportunity to provide the latest information on how their condition currently affects them.

More detailed information is available at Direct Gov Website (Opens in new Window)

Work Capability Assessment

This is one part of the process used by the DWP to assess a person’s entitlement to ESA.  It starts with the issue of an ESA questionnaire.

The assessment will look at the effects of any health condition or disability on a person’s ability to carry out a range of everyday work-related activities. It will be carried out by a healthcare professional (HCP) who could be a doctor, nurse or a physiotherapist.

The healthcare professional will discuss medical history and activities undertaken in a typical day. This information will be recorded but will not be a word for word record.

A person attending an assessment can bring extra information or medical information with them to assist the healthcare professional with their report. They can bring a companion for help and support who can also supply information.

Where appropriate there may be a physical examination which is designed to assess a person’s function and is not the same as would be encountered in a diagnostic or treatment setting with a GP or Consultant.

Verbal consent will be obtained for any physical examination to proceed, should it be necessary.  A person is encouraged to do as much of the examination as they feel comfortable with. There is no necessity to remove items of intimate clothing and sometimes a physical examination is not always required.

Once the healthcare professional has all the necessary information the face-to-face interview ends. The healthcare professional will then take some time evaluating the information obtained, suggesting the most appropriate “descriptors” and writing a justification of their choices, to complete the report for the DWP. [Descriptors are phrases defined by the DWP which are used within a medical report to describe the extent to which a person is able to undertake a particular physical or mental function]

The report is known as an ESA85 and will be sent electronically to the DWP immediately after completion.

Further detailed information about the Work Capability Assessment is contained in the guide produced by the DWP (New Window) 

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