Providing clinical evidence for the work capability assessment

When a person applies for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or is reassessed for ESA, they go through an assessment process to decide whether they qualify for this benefit.

This process, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) assesses whether they have limited capability for work.

The claimant will be asked to complete an ESA50 questionnaire and a clinician who knows the patient may be asked to provide some additional clinical evidence.

The claimant may also be asked to attend a face-to-face assessment with a doctor or nurse contracted by the DWP (currently Maximus). The final decision as to whether the person qualifies for the benefit is made by a DWP decision maker.

Increasingly, the DWP do not ask clinicians directly to provide written evidence (although they do sometimes send an ESA113 form to complete) and the onus is on the claimant to ask a clinician (GP or specialist) to provide this.

For many patients who are in contact with Mental Health Services, their psychiatrist or other practitioner working with them will be approached to provide a report. This may be done directly by the patient or by a welfare advisor acting on their behalf.

It is important that clinicians provide good quality, clear and accurate evidence that is appropriate for the purposes of assessing their capacity for work. To help with this we have created some guidance that clinicians may helpful in compiling their reports.

This guidance may be useful for psychiatrists, other mental health professionals and general practitioners. The guidance was written in partnership with Mind, Rethink and the Citizen's Advice Bureau. Guidance for Mental Health Clinicians providing Clinical Evidence for the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) (pdf).

This is one of two sets of guidance that we have produced for mental health practitioners providing reports for people applying for Social Security benefits (the other is for Personal Independence Payment – PIP) and we would like to receive any comments or suggestions to improve it. We would appreciate any helpful feedback from practitioners and others.

In partnership with Mind, Rethink and the Citizen's Advice Bureau, the College has produced a briefing on the case for a more effective use of existing patient medical evidences to support a WCA (pdf).

The provision of Welfare Benefit Advice can have significant implications for Health services.

Recent reports highlight the importance of social security for the recovery of people with mental health conditions: