May 012013

The latest Work Capability Assessment figures released by the DWP yesterday (30th May 2013) attracted little of the usual fanfare which usually sounds as they trumpet the results. Perhaps they’re getting nervous with an increasing number of rebuttals over their use of statistics appearing in the press of late?

Or perhaps on this occasion they simply didn’t have too much which they wanted to shout about?

I think it’s a mixture of both.

Amongst other things the DWP’s latest Quarterly figure release’ for June – August 2012 reveals:

52% of new Employment & Support Allowance were entitled to the allowance after assessment

73% of claimants having undergone conversion from their incapacity benefit claims had qualified for Employment & Support Allowance with 38% ending up in the Work Related Activity group and 35% in the Support Group.

It’s all a far cry from the days when not so longer ago the media fuelled almost certainly by the DWP were saying 75% of claimants were skivers.

Closed claims

After being heavily criticised in a number of media articles over drawing unsubstantiated conclusions as to why 878,300 (A figure which in itself was wrong) claimants had closed their claims before being assessed, the DWP appears to mitigate its incorrect assumptions by drawing a reference to a further report ‘Unsuccessful Employment and Support Allowance claims – qualitative research. I’d encourage those following the reassessment programme to give it a close read, not least because it was prepared some time ago back in 2011 and relates to findings drawn from a survey across only 952 individuals and a further sample of just 60 claimants. It’s a meagre number of claimants upon which to draw any conclusions when looking at the many thousands who have, for a variety of unknown reasons, closed their claims prior to being assessed.

The report concludes

“An important reason why ESA claims in this sample were withdrawn or closed before they were fully assessed
was because the person recovered and either returned to work, or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their

Before accepting the conclusion, I’d look at the report and the sample size of those surveyed.

What’s missing?

A complete reference to any of the results of the claimants who have been assessed following their initial assessment is missing from the report although the information is to be found in the tables.  These are often omitted but should be included.  If you look at the accompanying tables which the report if linked to you you will see that there is a total case load of no less than 958,300 from which 340,300 claimants were placed in the Work Related Activity Group since October 2008, far fewer are found fit for work in the group with 215,100 from October 2008 to August 2012.  Both of these groups will have a propensity to appeal, some claimants may for instance at the initial assessment have been placed in the Support Group but after being assessed again may be put in the Work Related Activity Group – creating a number who will appeal.

Of these assessed in the ‘reassessed following initial assessment’ group, 78% were entitled to ESA in June, 79% in July and 79% in August 2012 – a sizeable increase when compared with the 73% cumulative total relating to the entire period from October 2008 to August 2012.  I fail to understand why so little attention is drawn to a cohort of close to a million claimants who have been ‘repeat’ assessed in this group since the programme started .

The quarterly comparison 

When comparing the overall figures for all three cohorts (new claims, claims reassessed following initial claim and ib/ESA conversions) between May 2012 and August 2012

To date total

Increase/decrease on figure to May 2012 

Per month average over quarter

Numbers assessed WCA




Work Related
Activity Group placements




Support Group




Fit for work findings




Closed claims before assessment




Cases still in progress




Overall case load




Case load

What these figures, taken across ALL claimants involved in the assessment programme, show is that the DWP ‘case load’ increased by 485,100 over the period from June 2012 to August 2012.  The case load isn’t the number of claimants, it is the number of claim interventions made by DWP officials as part of their case load, it can be divided in to cases where an outcome has been recorded in which case the claimant will be placed in the Support Group, Work Related Activity Group or found ‘Fit for Work’.

Of the cases which have not been assessed, the claimant’s case can ‘still be in progress’ (this is not the same as the assessment phase data) or could be closed without assessment.

With usual thanks to the brilliant Nick of My Legal twitter @Mylegalforum

For a detailed breakdown up to August 2012 see Nick’s detailed work at


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