Work Capability Assessments

Work Capability Assessments

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

DWP Statistics can be found HERE


The percentage of people entitled to Employment and Support Allowance is at its highest level.

The percentage of people entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is at its highest level with over half of people completing a Work Capability Assessment eligible for the benefit. Just under half were found fit for work and will be given help to find a job which is suitable for them.

The new figures, published today, show that nearly three in ten people completing a Work Capability Assessment between June and August 2012 were awarded unconditional support through ESA. This compares to just one person in every ten completing an assessment three years ago.

The figures also show that since October 2010, 742,000 people on the old incapacity benefits have been reassessed to see if they are eligible for ESA. Over 203,000 people – or nearly three in every ten – have been found to be capable of work and are no longer eligible for sickness benefits. They will now get long term help from Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme to find work.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said:

The improvements we have made to the Work Capability Assessment since 2010 are making a real difference. By continuing to refine the system to make it fairer and more accurate we can ensure that people who are able to work get the encouragement they need to get a job, while those who are too sick to work get real support.

New ESA claims

Outcomes of completed initial assessments of claims started from June to August 2012 show that:

  • 52% of claimants were entitled to ESA (23% were placed in the Work Related Activity Group and 29% in the Support Group)
  • 48% of claimants were assessed as fit for work

IB reassessment

Outcomes of initial assessments (adjusted to account for outcomes after appeals) for incapacity benefits claimants referred for reassessment between October 2010 and August 2012 show:

  • 71% of claimants were entitled to the benefit (41% were placed in the Work Related Activity Group and 30% were placed in the Support Group)
  • 29% of claimants were assessed as fit for work and are not entitled to ESA

Quarterly statistics

We publish quarterly statistics for Employment and Support Allowance: Outcomes of Work Capability Assessments, Great Britain.

Appeals figures

Between October 2008 and February 2012:

  • DWP made nearly 1.36 million decisions on new ESA claims following a WCA – around 794,000 people were found fit for work
  • 39% of people who were found fit for work have had an appeal against the decision decided
  • 63% of those appeals were unsuccessful (that is, the original DWP decision was upheld)
  • 37% of those appeals were successful
  • to date, the tribunal overturned 15% of all fit for work decisions – often because new evidence is produced at appeal which wasn’t available when the original decision was made

More about outcomes

The Work Programme is designed to help people like those who are found fit for work. It offers longer term support over two years for people who are furthest away from the jobs market and who need the most help to eventually move into work.

People who are placed in the support group for ESA are unable to work due to illness or disability and will get the unconditional financial support they need.

People who are placed in the work-related activity group for ESA are currently too ill to work, but with the right help will be able to move into work in the future

People who are found fit for work are not entitled to ESA and will get help to find a job through Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme

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A guide to Employment and Support Allowance –

The Work Capability Assessment – ESA214


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