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Department of Work and Pensions agrees to act on benefit delays

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced a new triage system to make sure claimants for New-Style Employment and Support Allowance (NS-ESA) get a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) more quickly.

Image: Dolly outside smiling.

In turn, this will mean people are able to claim the full benefit they are entitled to and prevent them from getting their ESA wrongfully stopped.

Problems with Work Capability Assessments and NS-ESAs

A WCA assesses your ability to work and your eligibility for NS-ESA - a key out-of-work benefit for disabled people.

It shouldn’t take longer than 13 weeks to get a WCA and, while waiting, the claimant will receive the basic rate of NS-ESA.

Back in December, our Sight Loss Advice Service (SLAS) team identified that there were significant delays between people applying for NS-ESA and getting their WCA. Because of the way the system works, where people were waiting over a year their benefit payment was being stopped, without them having had an assessment.

When we saw this was happening, we were able to resolve individual cases to make sure WCAs took place before the end of the 365 days, safeguarding the customer’s income. However, it was clear that this was a wider problem and likely to impact more people as time went on.

We raised this with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in late December and were supported by several other organisations reporting the same problem.

How DWP is addressing the problem and what claimants need to do

The DWP has acknowledged that the issue needs addressing. They have accepted that there are still delays for claimants going through their WCAs and that as a result some NS-ESA claimants could have their ESA award wrongfully stopped. As a temporary solution, DWP has introduced a triage system to identify NS-ESA claimants who have reached, or are about to reach, the 365-day mark since their initial claim. These claimants will have their cases brought forward and where possible, an assessment carried out on paper or by telephone.

If it has been a year since you applied for NS-ESA and you are still waiting for a WCA, it’s important that you continue to provide a fit note to Jobcentre Plus, even if your assessment rate of NS-ESA has ended. This will help your award to restart efficiently when you are called for a WCA.

If you are approaching a year since claiming NS-ESA, please be assured that this new process is beginning, and you should continue to provide fit notes to the DWP. However, if you have any questions or concerns, you can contact us at 0303 123 9999 and we can provide support and assistance.