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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  COVID-19: Benefit claims and administration  →  Thread

Work Capability Assessments during covid-19

KMJones
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Early Warning System, Child Poverty Action Group

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CPAG’s Early Warning System is hearing that a number of people are not being assessed, despite waiting a long time for a WCA to be scheduled.

On 16 March, the government announced that face-to-face assessments are suspended for 3 months, and that telephone and paper assessments may be carried out for those who had a WCA scheduled. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/face-to-face-health-assessments-for-benefits-suspended-amid-coronavirus-outbreak

And on 23 March, they announced that there would be no reviews or reassessments for those who were already in receipt of PIP or LCW/LCWRA elements in UC. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/face-to-face-health-assessments-for-benefits-suspended-amid-coronavirus-outbreak

It’s not clear what happens to those who are not receiving any additional elements (or have LCW status) and were waiting for the assessment to be scheduled, having already submitted their UC50 or those who are yet to return the form.

We’ve been advising people to consider challenging the delay if it is unreasonable and causing significant hardship. Either by way of official complaint and/or using our template Judicial Review letter, available here: https://cpag.org.uk/welfare-rights/judicial-review/judicial-review-pre-action-letters/work-capability-assessments.

What’s happening for your clients?

Please tell me about individual anonymised cases using the EWS submission form: https://childpovertyactiongroup.wufoo.com/forms/m1vc0zeg1sr9zgh/

shawn mach
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KMJones - 12 May 2020 09:26 AM

... Please tell me about individual anonymised cases using the EWS submission form: https://childpovertyactiongroup.wufoo.com/forms/m1vc0zeg1sr9zgh/

Or even post details here 😁

Daphne
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On Monday DWP updated info on its new-style ESA PAGE to say -

How the assessment happens
Assessments are currently taking place over the phone because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you cannot use the phone, you’ll stay on the ‘assessment rate’ until you can be assessed face-to-face or until your New Style ESA ends.

You can have someone else on the call with you, for example a friend or support worker. Ask the assessor to call them if they’re not with you when the assessment starts.

It doesn’t seem to say anything about paper-based assessments and seems to imply that if you can’t manage a phone assessment you just have to wait on assessment rate!!

I’ve emailed the DWP for clarification but I’d be interested to know if people are still getting assessed on paper?

WR Adviser
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And no such update that I have seen for UC WCA’s - have I missed that?  (Sorry, I know that does not answer your question!)

Carolyn McA
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I realise that this is quite a late response, but I’ve had good results from chasing via the CHDA customer service email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (as recommended in https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/16118 post #17).
Two clients had experienced long delays. Client 1, registered blind (reg. cert. supplied in evidence with UC50) and in receipt of PIP ER both comps, applied for UC 11/2/20, previous ESA award having been terminated due to fraud with o/p for last few months of claim but had heard nothing about WCA by 8/6/20; initial contact led to CHDA saying he had to wait for face to face assessment but when we provided the evidence of his PIP award he was awarded LCWWRA without further assessment, not much more than two weeks after my initial enquiry.
Client 2 applied for UC 30/8/19 and was also awarded NSESA in October. Three scheduled WCA appointments were cancelled before lockdown (apparently due to the unavailability of a specialist doctor) and as of 24/3/20 she was again waiting for a new appointment to be allocated. I contacted CHDA on 21/7/20 to suggest that this was an unreasonable delay and the client was given a phone appointment for 5/8/20; I will follow up with her next week to get the decision. She was finding the delay very stressful, especially as she had recently received her letter about the end of 52 week NSESA entitlement so was just very relieved to get an assessment of any kind.
By way of contrast, a third client claimed NSESA and UC in May this year and by repeatedly calling CHDA on her own initiative was given an appointment for a WCA by phone on 28/7/20; she was awarded LCWWRA. She did have a lot of evidence including medical letters, a symptom diary going back to last October and occ. health evidence relating to the termination of her employment on capability grounds and by the time she was assessed she had also had a telephone PIP assessment and been awarded DL SR and Mob ER, but it seems that determined chasing brought prompt attention.

GCH Tenancy Sustainment
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Tenancy Sustainment Team Gloucester City Homes (GCH)

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Hi All,

Has there been any update on WCA’s for UC? Have a client who was told last month no telephone assessments were being completed and face to face were still suspended. Whilst she has not been waiting as long as others she is due to turn pension age in Jan and concerned she will miss out on the extra income if not completed prior to then.

Any thoughts or advice would be great…

dizzymare
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I have just called health assessment provider as I have a client on UC who initially had an appointment Nov 2019 which she couldnt attend as she is affected by agoraphobia.  She is still waiting for WCA! operator advised still no face to face assessments and doesnt know when there will be. We are told that they want to assess my client face to face! She actually started sending in fit notes in November 2018! she currently doesnt receive PIP but has some evidence (which I havent yet seen) so hoping this might help to get a decision.. she does come across quite well on the telphone so im a bit wary of pushing for this.

ZoeHBF
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Hello - lots of our clients have been able to have remote telephone assessments of their capability for work during Covid-19 however for one of our clients, whose assessment was scheduled just before the very beginning of the first lockdown and cancelled when everything shut down. I’ve been trying to chase a decision on his LCW/RA due to his vulnerabilities which we have sent in evidence about and have contacted his MP to ask for an update on this, who quickly got a response from the DWP (copied and anonymised below). This has happened to another of our clients, who the CHDA have decided absolutely must have a face to face assessment, meaning that they’ve now been waiting 8 months for an assessment and decision with no indication of when they will be able to have a face to face assessment. In the case of the other client this has happened to, he has managed to be assessed remotely by PIP who have made an award, but apparently it isn’t good enough for CHDA! I was wondering if anyone has experienced this also, and any ways around it?

They said that they “understand your concerns for a speedy outcome for [NAME]: we would also like to undertake the WCA for them at the earliest opportunity however we take our medical guidance from The Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA).

The intention behind the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is to determine an individual’s limited Capability for Work (LCW) based on the functional impact of their condition. As two people with the same condition can be affected in different ways, there is no condition-based entitlement to UC.

CHDA have used the UC50 medical questionnaire, Med 3 Doctor’s statement and a specialist letter and determined that the level of disability is unclear from the available body of evidence. They feel that a face to face assessment is required to clarify the level of disability, function and further explore risk in [CLIENT’S] case.

Unfortunately face to face assessments cannot take place with CHDA until it is safe to do so. UC will continue to pay [CLIENT] while awaiting the outcome of the WCA and if any Limited Capability for Work Related Activity (LCWRA) is due to [CLIENT] in future it will be backdated to when they would have been eligible to receive the extra amount.”

Daphne
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I’d be really interested to know if others are experiencing this. It’s something I’ve raised at the stakeholder’s forum a couple of times and they tend just to deflect saying they’re carrying out phone assessments where possible. I’ll raise it again with them…

Dan Manville
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Greater Manchester Law Centre

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Daphne
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Thanks Dan :)

It might also be worth contacting CPAG JR project to do letter challenging their refusal to carry out WCA - or letter at top of this page might work

Sue Sowerby
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Allerdale Citizens Advice Bureau

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We have also had a lot of clients who have been waiting up to a year for a WCA, they just don’t seem to be happening here (Cumbria) although PIP assessments have been going ahead pretty much ok by phone. I have spoken to CHDA today about a vunerable client, and they agreed to pull out his case to check whether he would be suitable for a telephone assessment, but advised that many still need to wait for a face to face. Our other issue now is whether any arrears of LCWRA would be backdated. The dwp quote from Zoe above seems to indicate that they should be, but we have one client who started the WCA in January, the assessment was cancelled due to the lockdown, and finally took place in August. A decision was issued in Sept to award the LCWRA element but this has not been backdated and has only been applied from the date of the decision. The client has asked several times about a backdate but has been told this will not happen, and the delay was due to covid and not their fault. Is there any guidance we can refer to to try and challenge this? I’ve got a feeling that otherwise this might start to become a major problem…

Va1der
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ADM F5031: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/864911/admf5.pdf

Failure to backdate LCWRA is to be a pretty common issue, either in cases where there is some dispute on when the claimants first submitted evidence of LCW, and in others where DWP seem to be whimsically inventing new rules on a case by case basis.

Elliot Kent
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Sue Sowerby - 20 November 2020 05:55 PM

the assessment was cancelled due to the lockdown, and finally took place in August. A decision was issued in Sept to award the LCWRA element but this has not been backdated and has only been applied from the date of the decision. The client has asked several times about a backdate but has been told this will not happen, and the delay was due to covid and not their fault. Is there any guidance we can refer to to try and challenge this? I’ve got a feeling that otherwise this might start to become a major problem…

Is this a first assessment or a re-assessment because the rules are different?

I am going to try and put together some sort of material on effective dates for re-assessments because its fairly complicated and is coming up quite a bit lately.

Sue Sowerby
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Allerdale Citizens Advice Bureau

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Hi, it was a re-assessment for this client.

Ianb
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Macmillan benefits team, Citizens Advice Bristol

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Was the review initiated by DWP or did the client report a change of condition?

Sue Sowerby
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The client reported a worsening of his condition in Jan 20, was sent a UC50 which he completed in March, then he had a telephone assessment in August. The decision was made in September and the LCWRA element only applied from the date of the decision.

Elliot Kent
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If that’s the case, you should be asking for an MR on the basis that it was appropriate to supersede the decision to include the LCWRA element either from when the change occurred or when it was reported. See reg 23 & para 20/21, Schedule 1 D&A Regs 2013.

Ianb
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Elliot Kent - 23 November 2020 05:12 PM

If that’s the case, you should be asking for an MR on the basis that it was appropriate to supersede the decision to include the LCWRA element either from when the change occurred or when it was reported. See reg 23 & para 20/21, Schedule 1 D&A Regs 2013.

Thanks Elliott, that’s where I was heading with my question. Unlike you however I wouldn’t have been able to quote the relevant regulation.

Sue Sowerby
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Elliot Kent - 23 November 2020 05:12 PM

If that’s the case, you should be asking for an MR on the basis that it was appropriate to supersede the decision to include the LCWRA element either from when the change occurred or when it was reported. See reg 23 & para 20/21, Schedule 1 D&A Regs 2013.

Yes that’s what we have done. My collegue has just had a call from UC to say they are referring it to a tier 2 decision maker because of the ramifications!