Employment and Support Allowance needs fundamental redesign - MPs

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Flaws in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are so grave that simply re-branding the the Work Capability Assessment (WCA)) by appointing a new contractor will not solve the problem, the Work and Pensions Committee has said.

In a report published today, the Committee called for fundamental redesign of the ESA's end-to-end process. The redesign should be completed before the new multi-provider contract is tendered, which is expected to be in 2018.

Dame Anne Begg MP, chair of the committee, said: "The current provider of the WCA, Atos, has become a lightning rod for all the negativity around the ESA process and DWP and Atos have recently agreed to terminate the contract early.

"But it is DWP that makes the decision about a claimant's eligibility for ESA - the face-to-face assessment is only one part of the process. Just putting a new private provider in place will not address the problems with ESA and the WCA on its own."

"We are therefore calling for a number of changes which can be made to improve ESA in the short-term, while also recommending a longer-term, fundamental redesign of the whole process."

One of the key issues which the Report identifies is that ESA is not helping people who could work in the short to medium term to move back into employment.
One of the reasons is the outcomes of the ESA claims process are too simplistic.

A large and disparate middle group of claimants who are not yet fit for work, and may even have a deteriorating condition, are required nonetheless to undertake activity which is meant to help them find work in the longer term.

These claimants are placed in the Work-related Activity Group (WRAG),which covers too wide a spectrum of claimants with very different prognoses and employment support needs.

The Committee recommended the ESA redesign should ensure the process identifies claimants' health barriers to employment and the particular support they need, so that the conditionality that they are subject to and the employment support they receive can be tailored to their circumstances.

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