DWP figures on ‘unacceptable’ WCA reports cast doubt on decisions made on tens of thousands of ESA claims

Tens of thousands of “fitness for work” benefit claims could have been decided by civil servants on evidence from assessment reports that should have been rejected because their quality was “unacceptable”, government figures suggest. The concerns about the way Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision-makers have decided employment and support allowance (ESA) claims follow last week’s revelations about similar concerns with personal independence payment (PIP) claims. They are based on figures provided by the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton (pictured), to Labour MP Grahame Morris.

The figures* show that the proportion of work capability assessment (WCA) reports sent back to DWP contractor Maximus** because they were found to be of “unacceptable” quality – following audits of small samples of the reports – was as much as 100 times greater than the proportion sent back by DWP decision-makers when making day-to-day decisions on ESA claims. This suggests that DWP decision-makers are frequently deciding ESA claims based on “unacceptable” reports instead of sending them back to Maximus assessors to “rework”.

With Newton’s figures also showing that Maximus carried out more than one million WCAs and other assessments in 2016-17, and more than 1.1 million in 2017-18 – when only 625 reports were sent back by DWP to Maximus to be reworked because they were “unacceptable” – this suggests that tens of thousands of claims could have been affected every year. Read more.