Work Capability Assessment

Work and Pensions written question – answered at on 7 November 2011.

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Photo of Stephen Lloyd Stephen Lloyd Liberal Democrat, Eastbourne

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

(1) what assessment he has made of the effect of reducing the time allowed to return an ESA50 form on the ability of claimants to gather and submit additional medical evidence to support their claim;

(2) what assessment he has made of the effect of reducing the time allowed to return an ESA50 form on the ability of (a) claimants with mental health disorders, cognitive problems or learning difficulties and (b) other claimants to return the form on time;

(3) with reference to Section 9 of the Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 3) Regulations 2011, what the reasons are for the reduction of the amount of time allowed to claimants to return an ESA50 form.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

From 31 October 2011, the time limits for returning the questionnaire (ESA50) were reduced from 42 days to 28 days overall. This is because the time scales were based on those for incapacity benefit, which included an additional 14 days for claimants to contact their GPs to make an appointment. This is not needed for employment and support allowance claims and the Government believes that it is therefore reasonable reduce the time scales for returning the form from 28 days to 21 days, and the time for reminders to seven days from 14, which makes an overall total of 28 days. We would not wish for this to impinge on a claimant's ability to provide further evidence to support their claim as they will still be required to complete the remaining Work Capability Assessment process, of which, the return of ESA50 is just the start.

We recognise concerns about the effects on vulnerable people, especially those with mental health problems. As a consequence we are retaining all existing safeguards for those claimants who demonstrate that they had good cause for failing to return the questionnaire on time. Decision Makers must consider the claimant's state of health, nature of disability and whether they were in Great Britain before deciding if the claimant has good cause for not completing the questionnaire on time.

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