Work capability assessment for mental health (A complete Guide)

In this guide, we will talk about the Work Capability Assessment for mental health (WCA).

We will explain in detail what Work Capability Assessment is when we start using WCA. 

What is a Work capability assessment for mental health? 

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A work capability assessment for mental health allows the Department for Work and Pensions to look at how mental conditions affect an employee’s ability to work. 

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA)  is the test used by the British Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to distinguish if an individual is eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). 

Work Capability Assessment was made to focus on a person’s capability to work rather than their inability to work and it’s a first positive step towards finding or getting a job for most people. 

When is the Work Capability Assessment used?

Work Capability Assessment was made to differentiate people who couldn’t work due to illness or disability from individuals who are fit for certain jobs or fit with additional support.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)  is a benefit that is given to people who are unable to work due to illness or disability and people

If someone wants to qualify for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), they first have to get the approval of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) so DWP can decide if someone has limited capability to work.

This assessment is done by using Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which determines their eligibility.

Work capability assessment was introduced in 2008th. By introducing Work capability assessment (WCA), previous assessment Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) was replaced. 

Assessment process for general disabilities 

The assessment process starts 13 weeks after the initial declaration when a healthcare professional approved by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) thoroughly examines the claim form and decides whether to seek further evidence from the claimant’s GP or another appropriate source.

 If the documentation appear that, on balance, according to the legally-defined criteria of the test, the individual could not reasonably be expected to work or prepare for work, then a face-to-face assessment won’t be necessary, the individual will be recommended for the Support Group, and the higher rate of Employment and Support Allowance is usually permitted. 

If the evidence and documentation show otherwise, the healthcare professional schedules a face-to-face assessment in the examination center, or in some cases in the claimant’s home. 

In time of face-to-face assessments, doctors, nurses, and physiotherapists – the assessors are guided by a program, designed by Atos in conjunction with the DWP, called the Logic-integrated Medical Assessment or LiMA. 

During the face-to-face assessments, all the data about lifestyle and clinical information from the individual is entered into the program by the assessors.

As the assessment progresses, Logic-integrated Medical Assessment tries to measure the impact of the disability on the individual’s daily life and the fitness for work – but while LiMA suggests options to the assessor, it is ultimately the healthcare professional who is responsible for making the recommendations.

 The assessors who are healthcare professionals rely on their knowledge gathered from working in a clinical environment so they can:

  • Answer factual questions that have a bearing on eligibility, such as: “Is the claimant receiving intravenous therapy?”
  • Explore the medical history
  • Deliver clinical judgments, such as on whether the claimant is at substantial risk or terminally ill?
  • Estimate the date of any future recovery?

Mental health and Work capability assessment 

Most people who have mental health problems see Work Capacity Assessment working against people who are having difficulties to find jobs and every attempt to develop employable skills is considered as evidence of fitness for work.

Being unemployed in combination with having a mental health condition, causes individuals to experience mental health stigma in everyday life.

Individuals who suffer from mental health problems experience problems in education as well because receiving Employment and Support Allowance is not possible for students. 

People are trying to fit these assumptions because most of them volunteer for personal benefits like socializing and meeting new people, getting out of their comfort zone and learning new ways to deal with problems and that doesn’t make them capable of work. 

How does mental health assessment work?

The aim of the health questionnaire is to build an accurate picture of their current state and needs.

It assesses their physical and mental health to determine how it affects their ability to work. 

When filling the ESA50 questionnaire, they can make a note about the need to speak to an expert in mental health.

While this isn’t guaranteed, the DWP is likely to take this into account.

It’s worth noting, they’ll have four weeks to fill and return the form to the DWP.

If an employee requires more time, they must contact the DWP explaining how much more time they need and why.

Questions in mental health assessment

The second part of the questionnaire is a mental health capacity assessment.

The first question in this section requires the employee to list any healthcare professional with knowledge of their health condition including their contact information.

 This may include a:

  • GP.
  • Psychologist.
  • Psychiatrist.

Where relevant, they’ll need to consider issues relating to their:

  • Mental health including symptoms and similar experiences.
  • Feelings, thoughts, and actions.
  • Physical wellbeing.
  • Employment and possible reasonable adjustments.
  • Social and family relationships.
  • Culture and ethnic background.
  • Gender and sexuality.
  • Use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Issues relevant to their or others’ safety.
  • Dependents including children or elderly relatives.
  • Strengths and skills, and what helps them best.

Work capability assessment for mental health: How many points?

The DWP issues points for each activity in the questionnaire. To be entitled to ESA, they’ll need to get a total of 15 points.

If they’re thought to have limited capability for work, they’ll be invited to a second interview where they’ll see if they have a limited capability for work-related activities.

It’s worth noting if the employee isn’t experiencing any physical health problems they should tick the first box for each question in part one of the questionnaire.

You might also want to learn How to fill in limited capability for work questionnaire for depression.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.


In this article, we shared with you a complete guide on Work capability assessment for mental health.

Here are the key points to remember: 

  1. To qualify for ESA the DWP has to decide that you have limited capability for work.
  2.  They do this by asking you to complete a Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
  3.  You will be sent an ESA50 questionnaire that asks you questions about your ability to manage everyday tasks.
  4. It is important to fill this in as accurately as possible, you can get help with this from an advice agency.
  5. You are also likely to be asked to attend a medical with a doctor or nurse contracted by the DWP.
  6.  If the DWP decides you don’t have limited capability for work you can not continue to get ESA.
  7.  It is possible to appeal this decision but you only have 1 month to do so.
  8. If you do have limited capability for work you could be placed into the support group or the work-related activity group. 
  9.  If you are placed in the support group you don’t have to take part in any further interviews or assessments until your claim is up for renewal.
  10.  If you are in the work-related activity group you will have to take part in 6 work-focused interviews.
  11. These interviews are to explore your options for getting back to work.
  12. You might also be asked to attend another medical assessment called a Work Focused Health Related Assessment so the DWP has a clearer idea of the barriers between you and finding work.
  13.  Your benefit is not stopped if you do not find a job or get back into work.

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FAQs about work capability assessment for mental health

What should I expect at a work capability assessment?

What you should expect from a work capability assessment is for the Healthcare Professional to look at the effects of any health condition or disability on your ability to carry out a range of everyday activities.

The Healthcare Professional will discuss your medical history and activities you undertake in a typical day.

How long does it take to get a decision after work capability assessment?

Getting your ESA decision after the work capability assessment, it can take several weeks or months for the DWP to make a decision.

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

How many points do I need for the ESA support group?

You need 15 points or more for the ESA support group.

As a general rule, you’re given 0, 6, 9 or 15 points for each activity. 

What happens at a DWP health assessment?

At a DWP health assessment, a Healthcare Professional will try to understand how your illness or disability affects your daily life.

The Health Assessment Advisory Service arranges and carries out assessments for DWP.

After the assessment, DWP makes the decision on your benefits claim.

What does work capability assessment mean?

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a test used by the British Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to decide whether welfare claimants are entitled to Employment Support Allowance (ESA), or Universal Credit (UC).

What is the highest rate of ESA?

The highest rate of ESA is different and it depends on the type of ESA you are getting and other factors.

You’ll normally get the assessment rate for the first 13 weeks: up to £57.90 a week if you’re aged under 25. up to £73.10 a week if you’re aged 25 or over.


  1. Government’s response to the Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment
  2. An independent review of the Work Capability Assessment
  3. Project Management Capability Assessment
  4. This Book Will Change Your Mind About Mental Health: A journey into the heartland of psychiatry
  5. Understanding Mental Illness 6th edition: Mental Health Awareness For Self Teaching
  6. Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide to DSM-5


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