Work capability assessments need to be ‘fair, consistent and right first time’

Friday 18th November 2016

Leading local advice charity, Citizens Advice Exeter, has welcomed the publication of the government health and work Green Paper.

This comes as the charity’s latest figures show a 23% increase in enquiries from clients about ESA.


Compared to the previous financial year, Citizens Advice Exeter has helped 5% more people this year.

Responding to news that the Green Paper will look to create a more ‘targeted and personalised’ work capability assessment, the charity said the current system causes many people huge distress.

Citizens Advice Exeter also said the government needs to streamline and properly resource support for people who are disabled or have long term health condition but want to work.

Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Exeter Steve Barriball said:

“Many people who are disabled or have long-term health problems want to work, and need support to do so.

“But for anyone not well enough to take on a job, the work capability assessment must be fair, consistent and right first time.

“Hundreds of people with a disability or long term health condition turn to us each year, with many juggling debt or housing problems as well as problems related to work.

“But too many have also been let down by failings with the work capability assessment. Issues include long delays, assessments carried out with limited medical evidence, and a lack of financial support when appealing decisions.

“It’s welcome news that the Green Paper finds the work capability assessment to be in need of an overhaul. The Government now has a great opportunity to use this health and work consultation to tackle the challenges disabled people face finding and keeping a job.”

The advice trends over the period were as follows:

Welfare benefits

Overall, the charity dealt with 13.5% more welfare benefit enquiries. The main increases being:


  • 23.0% increase about employment and support allowance
  • 20.3% increase about disability benefits (PIP/DLA)


The charity also dealt with 73 enquires about the new Universal Credit benefit system.


Case studies – focus on disability benefits:


  1. A client who experienced increased levels of stress and anxiety when they had to pay their GP £20 for a letter confirming their medical condition when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) already had determined the medical condition when the client had claimed a previous disability benefit.
  2. A client with a severe learning disability who failed the work capability assessment and was left with no income for two months whilst we helped with an appeal against the decision. As a vulnerable person the client found the level of help and support provided by the DWP to be ineffective and insufficient to enable a fair assessment to be conducted.
  3. A disabled client who lives in Exeter but told us that they were invited to attend a health assessment in Axminster where there are double yellow lines outside the venue and inadequate parking facilities. There was no access for wheelchair users, and there is a cobbled path leading up to the venue. This meant that the client had to be dropped off by their partner outside the venue and wait in appalling weather conditions, with no shelter, until the partner arrived after they had parked some distance away. They client was already feeling anxious about the assessment, and this experience increased their anxiety levels.



Overall, the charity dealt with 4.6% fewer employment enquiries. The main changes being:


  • 46.1% decrease about resignation
  • 30.9% decrease about dispute resolution
  • 52.9% increase about employment tribunals and appeals
  • 31.5% increase about terms and conditions



Overall, the charity dealt with 0.9% fewer debt enquiries. The main changes being:


  • 23.7% decrease about credit card debts
  • 20.5% decrease about payday loans
  • 23.1% increase about bankruptcy and debt relief orders
  • 16.0% increase about water arrears



Overall, the charity dealt with 2.1% fewer housing enquiries. The main changes being:


  • 10.4% decrease about threatened homelessness
  • 94.7% increase about housing association property
  • 38.0% increase about actual homelessness
  • 3.4% increase about local authority property