Work Capability Assessment independent review

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was introduced in October 2008 to assess entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Section 10 of the Welfare Reform Act 2007 commits the Secretary of State to lay an independent report before Parliament each year for the first five years of operation.

On 29 June 2010 the Secretary of State appointed Professor Malcolm Harrington to undertake the first of these independent reviews. We published his review on 23 November 2010, alongside the Government’s response to it.

Interim report on Year 1 recommendations

At the start of May 2011 the Minister for Employment asked Professor Harrington to provide an interim report on the implementation of his Year 1 recommendations. This concludes that real progress has been made in implementing all of the recommendations.

The first review

Professor Harrington reviewed the fairness and effectiveness of the WCA. He set out a substantial series of recommendations to the Government based on the evidence he collected as part of the review. The main recommendations focus on:

  • empowering and investing in Jobcentre Plus Decision Makers
  • Jobcentre Plus taking control of the process and supporting individuals through it
  • Atos employing “champions” at each Medical Examination Centre
  • establishing a programme of work for the second review.

We published the review on 23 November 2010.

An Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment

The Government’s response to the first review

The Government responded to Professor Harrington’s review on 23 November 2010. They welcomed the findings and recommendations of the review – fully endorsing and accepting his suggestions.

The Government response includes details of how and when we will implement the recommendations.

Future reviews

Professor Harrington’s review was the first of five annual reviews. Improving the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) will be an ongoing process to ensure that the system works as well as possible for people going through it.

Professor Harrington has been re-appointed to lead the second review, and has started work on the programme of work set out in his first review. This is the high-level timeline for this year, including major milestones:

Consultation during the first review (now closed)


3 thoughts on “Work Capability Assessment independent review

  1. Holmey says:

    “In short, I am pleased and gratified to see the progress that has been made to
    implement my recommendations. I detect a real enthusiasm for change at the
    JCP/BDC local level and real commitment from senior officials in Caxton House to 4
    convert these recommendations into real and lasting policy changes. Some cultural
    inertia exists in middle management but I am speaking to DWP/JCP about this and
    understand they are working to change the ethos and attitudes here as well. This
    change will be critical in supporting my recommendations and their success.
    As a result of all this, I believe that the WCA can become less mechanistic, more
    empathetic and more evidence-based. The result would be a fairer system.”

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