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ESA assessments – How long for a decision?


This blog post will try to find out how long after and ESA assessment one has to wait for a decision.

We bring you the latest DWP statistics about the waiting time. 

ESA – How long to get a decision?

The decision to be awarded the Employment and Support Allowance can take several weeks or months after the assessment, if one was required.

After the Work Capability Assessment, a decision-maker from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will look at the recommendation made by the Healthcare Professional at the assessment, and will decide if you should be awarded ESA or not. 

Why does Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) require claimants to attend a medical assessment?

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a process designed to verify and understand why claimants need what they can and cannot do, and which would be the right support for each individual.

People whose physical or mental condition does not allow them to work, would benefit most from this assessment, which is supposed to be very efficient and accurate.

The purpose of this assessment is to identify people who really need financial help because they cannot work because of their disability or illness.

Following this assessment, individuals will be placed in either the work-related activity or the support group.

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The Assessment Report

After the ESA assessment, the Healthcare Professional completes a report using criteria laid out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

This is to provide the DWP Decision Maker with an impartial, justified medical opinion about how the claimant is affected by their medical condition.

The Assessment Report will describe the claimant’s medical conditions and the activities he or she undertakes in a typical day.

It will also have the Healthcare Professional’s observations, and the results of any physical examination undertaken.

The assessment report is one piece of information DWP uses in deciding your entitlement.

The Healthcare Professional who carries out the assessment does not make any decision about allowance, benefits or credits.

The Healthcare Professional will not know the outcome of the claim and doesn’t know how long you have to wait for the ESA assessment decision.

The DWP latest statistics

The DWP latest statistics say most work capability assessment decisions (including the medical which take around 14 weeks) are now taking 19 weeks to clear. 

The data shows that time has reduced by nearly half in the latest month, September 2017, (19 weeks) since reaching a peak of 38 weeks in August 2014.

The chart shows the assessment provider clearance times median follow a similar pattern, reaching their peak in July 2014 at 32 weeks and then falling to stand at 14 weeks in September 2017.

For the 100,000 ESA initial assessments cleared in the latest quarter to September 2017:

  • Support Group 39% 
  • Work-Related 19% 
  •  Fit for Work 41% 

Outcomes of initial assessments entitled to ESA (assigned to SG or WRAG) increased by 3,600 in the latest quarter to September 2017 to stand at 59,000. 

If a customer disagrees with their assessment decision they have the opportunity to raise a Mandatory Reconsideration and ask DWP to formally review the decision. 

The MR process was introduced in October 2013. From its introduction up to March 2017, numbers of registrations generally increased over time.

Since a peak of 22,000 in March 2017, registrations have fluctuated but gradually fallen to 16,000 in January 2018. 

In January 2018, the clearance time for mandatory reconsideration (MR) was 11 calendar days.

Since January 2015, after the MR process was established, the average MR clearance time has not exceeded 15 days. 

How will I get my decision?

You’ll get the decision when the DWP writes to you with the result of your claim.

This is called a decision letter.

If you’re going to get ESA, you’ll be put into one of these 2 groups:

  • the work-related activity group (WRAG), or
  • the support group 

The support group

If you’ve been put in the support group, it means the DWP has decided that you can’t work and that it doesn’t expect you to do anything to improve your chances of finding work.

Nonetheless, if you’re in this group and decide that you want to take part in the work-related activity anyway, you can do it.

Use the contact details on your decision letter to contact the DWP and let them know you want to change groups.

They’ll let you know if there’s any suitable work-related activity going on in your area that you can join.

The work-related activity group

If you’ve been put into the work-related activity group it means the DWP has decided that your disability or health condition does limit your ability to work right now, but that there are things you can do to improve this.

You’re not expected to look for work, but you can be asked to go to a work-focused interview and then do work-related activities.

These activities are things that the DWP thinks will improve your chances of working in the future.

You won’t need to go to a work-focused interview or do any work-related activities if:

  • you’re a single parent with a child under one-year-old
  • you’ve reached Pension Credit age

Work-focused interviews

If you’ve been put into the work-related activity group, you’ll be asked to go to a work-focused interview.

You will get a personal adviser at the Jobcentre, and you’ll have to go meet them once or more times.

At the interview, your personal adviser will try to get a better understanding of your situation and your abilities and your limitations.

They’ll look at what you can already do, what you might be able to do in the future and help you would need to be able to go to work.


At the interview, you’ll probably talk about your work history (if you have any), your studies and qualifications.

You’ll also discuss what steps you might need to accomplish to eventually be able to work, and what type of help would you need. 

Work-related activities

If you’re in the work-related activity group, you’ll be expected to take part in the work-related activity unless:

  • you’re a carer getting Carer’s Allowance or a carer premium as part of your ESA claim
  • you’re a single parent with a child under 3 – if you’re a single parent with a child between 3 and 13, you will have to do work-related activities, but only during normal school hours
  • you’ve reached Pension Credit age

You cannot be required, as part of work-related activity, to apply for a job, do work or undergo medical treatment.

If you are getting contributory ESA, the award of this will be limited to 12 months, although you may be able to claim income-related ESA once the award has come to an end.

ESA rates after getting your decision

Once you’ve been assessed, your ESA payment should increase from the assessment rate to the full rate.

There are different rates of ESA, depending on:

  • which group you’re put into
  • whether you get income-related ESA and qualify for an additional premium

You’ll get:

  • up to £73.10 a week if you’re in the work-related activity group
  • up to £111.65 a week if you’re in the support group

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How long you get ESA for

If you’re in the work-related activity group and get contribution-based ESA, you’ll only get it for up to 12  months.

This includes time before your medical assessment.

If your disability or illness gets worse and you would qualify for the support group, you can ask the DWP to re-assess you even after the year’s finished.

If you’re in the support group or getting income-related ESA, your claim will be ongoing.

Conclusions

The DWP latest statistics say most work capability assessment decisions are taking on average 19 weeks to clear.

Regards to the clearance time for a mandatory reconsideration, one has to wait up to 11 calendar days. 

What do you think about these numbers?

You are more than welcome to share your opinion and your experience with the DWP waiting times in the comments section below.

FAQ about ESA assessments, how long for a decision 

How long do DWP decision-makers take?

DWP decision-makers can take up to 12 weeks from weeks from the date you started your claim to make a decision.

How long does work capability assessment take?

The work capability assessment should take place within 3 months of you providing the Department for Work and Pensions with evidence of your limited capability for work.

For example, a fit note from your doctor.

How long after ESA assessment will I get a decision?

After your ESA assessment, someone from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will look at the recommendation made by the assessor and use it to decide whether you can get ESA.

It can take several weeks or months for the DWP to make a decision.

How long does support group ESA last?

ESA support group lasts over 12 months, this being the time limit on payment of contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for people in the Work-Related Activity Group.

Will DWP know if I go abroad?

DWP can’t know if you go abroad unless you tell them. If you’re going abroad for less than 4 weeks, it won’t affect your ESA – but you should still tell the DWP.

If you’re going abroad for 4 weeks or more, contact your nearest Citizens Advice to check if it will affect your ESA. 

What happens if I don’t attend the DWP health assessment?

If you do not attend your appointment, you will be sent a form (BF223) that will ask why you did not attend.

You will need to complete it and send it back to the DWP. If they accept your explanation for not attending the appointment reasonable, they may reschedule your health assessment. 

Recommendations

  1. Employment and Support Allowance: A Guide to ESA for People with a Disability or Long Term Health Condition, Their Families, Carers and Advisors 
  2. Investigation into errors in Employment and Support Allowance
  3. Providing Employment Support for People With Long-Term Mental Illness: Choices, Resources, and Practical Strategies
  4. Limited Capability – The Support Group (Social Insecurity Book 5)
  5. The Unemployment Guide: How a Setback Can Launch Your Career

References

  1. Employment and Support Allowance: Work Capability Assessments, Mandatory Reconsiderations and Appeals
  2. Getting your ESA decision after the assessment – Citizens Advice
  3. Work Capability Assessment – Turn2us

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