“The WCA doesn’t need to be so punitive, complex or soul-destroying for sick and disabled people when it comes to benefits and work in the UK,” writes Lee Healey, Founder of Age Action Alliance members IncomeMax CIC, who has shared his response to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to the consultation on the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
We entitled this response “Enough is Enough” to convey the urgent need for reform and the elimination of unnecessary suffering currently endured by sick and disabled individuals.
The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has long been a source of pain, fear, and stress for disabled individuals and those with health conditions in the UK. While we acknowledge the government’s long-standing attempts to assess capability for work and support, we firmly believe that it’s time for a profound change.
The existing WCA process, along with the rules on work and earnings, especially under Universal Credit (UC), place unnecessary shackles on individuals. These UC working rules, along with the WCA process, instil fear, anxiety, and stress, preventing people from realising their potential. It’s disheartening to witness how these regulations often lead to decisions that work against those in need. At IncomeMax CIC, we see these struggles every day.
A Vision for Change
Our vision for change is clear: the DWP should amend the rules on work and earnings to allow EVERYONE to work without restrictions or earnings limits. This transformative approach is about enabling work for all and providing the support that individuals need to do so effectively.
The WCA should then be made more personalised, flexible and adaptable. If approached correctly, the process could become a more positive, empowering and effective stepping stone to receiving the support that sick and disabled people need in order to thrive in every area of their life, including work.
The Path Forward
1. Personalisation and Flexibility
We urge the DWP to adopt a more personalised, flexible and adaptable approach… to recognise that each individual’s situation is unique, and that a “one-size-fits-all” system simply doesn’t work. Amending the WCA descriptors alone will not achieve the positive outcomes on work DWP so desperately want. It’s the entire approach, purpose and process of the WCA, along with the restrictive work rules which are the problem.
2. Clear Communication
Amend the rules on working so that there are no restrictions on earnings for all claimants. Communicate to people that work is possible for everyone. Emphasise that the government supports their right to work and succeed on their own terms.
3. Support and Understanding
Develop personal relationships with UC and ESA claimants to understand their work needs, capabilities, and requirements. Provide the necessary support to individuals who express a desire to work. Use the WCA as a stepping stone to support. Currently the WCA process makes people scared, nervous and stressed. For many sick and disabled people, the WCA becomes more about desperately hoping you don’t lose the financial support you’ve got, hoping you continue to fit into a nonsensical system of rules and then facing often challenging decisions which go against you.
The WCA doesn’t need to be so punitive, complex or soul-destroying for sick and disabled people when it comes to benefits and work in the UK.
Build in flexibility, adaptability, and common sense into the system, and ensure that any changes made are accessible and inclusive for all individuals, regardless of their health issues or disabilities.
This DWP consultation presents a golden opportunity to get things right, to end the hurt, stress, and suffering of sick and disabled people in the UK. Let us work together to help the most vulnerable members of our society thrive on their terms, with a work/life balance that suits them.
We call on the government to listen to the voices of disabled individuals, organisations like IncomeMax CIC, and all concerned citizens. It’s time for a profound and compassionate reform that empowers people to work and live with dignity and fulfillment.
We urge everyone to respond to this consultation and attend the stakeholder events. Together, we can bring about the change that is badly needed and long overdue.
On Universal Credit, currently if you are working, you can only be referred for a WCA where your earnings are below a specified amount, or equal to, or exceed that specified amount and you are entitled to Disability Living Allowance (DLA),Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Attendance Allowance (AA) or Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP). The specified amount of earnings is the equivalent of 16 hours’ work per week paid at the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage.)