Autistic man with his support workerThe Department for Work and Pensions recently announced that they have made some changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which mean that some people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit (UC) will no longer have to go through repeat assessments.

People with the most severe and lifelong conditions including some autistic people with the most complex needs, who are assessed as being unlikely to ever find employment, will now be able to qualify for a long-term ESA award without regular reassessments.

What are Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit?

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is an out of work benefit for disabled adults. Universal Credit (UC) is a new system of bringing together out of work benefits (including ESA), housing benefits, income support and tax credits. 

What is going to happen?

When you are assessed for ESA, you go through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), and the result of this assessment decides whether you should be in the ‘work related activity group’ or the ‘support group’ of ESA. Similarly when you are assessed for UC, it is decided whether you are fit for work, have limited capability for work or have limited capability for work related activity. Those people who are very unlikely to be able to work in the future should be assessed as being in the ESA ‘support group’ or (under UC) having limited capability for work-related activity. 

The new guidance published by DWP means that assessors will have the option to recommend that certain individuals will not have to go through repeat assessments in the future. The two main criteria for not going through further assessments are that the person must be:

  • An ESA claimant in the support group or a UC claimant who has been found to have ‘limited capability for work-related activity’ (LCWRA) and
    They are unlikely to ever be able to move into work
  • The change does not apply to particular conditions or disabilities but will be dependent on each individual’s circumstances. This is welcome news for those on the autism spectrum with the most complex needs who may never be able to work. 

The National Autistic Society will be monitoring how this works in practice.