Department for Work and Pensions shows large geographical differences in numbers deemed “Fit for Work” under Work Capability Assessment

A Freedom of Information request to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed significant geographical variations in the proportion of claimants for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) who are denied the benefit on grounds they are “Fit for Work”.

Bill Sheppard, a retired DWP official, asked for the data because of a suspicion that northern claimants are suffering discrimination under the Work Capability Assessment. This is the mandatory assessment administered by ATOS under contract to DWP. Anyone claiming ESA is required to have an assessment of how their illness or condition affects them on a day-to-day basis. The assessments are then used by DWP to decide benefit eligibility.

A request was submitted seeking information on the proportion of assessments resulting in a “Fit for Work” decision. Data was requested for the period 2008 -2012 covering Great Britain, Newcastle, Sheffield, West London and Woking. Two health conditions (musculo-skeletal and cardio-vascular) were specified.

Bill says, “Since 2008, around 2000 new ESA claims in Newcastle have been subject to a Work Capability Assessment and two thirds have been dismissed on grounds that the claimant was fit for work. This is double the Woking rate and much higher than the national average which stands at around 50 per cent”.

Sheffield was near the national average and West London above it but lower than Newcastle.

Bill observes, “My daughter’s suspicions about local variation is given some support by this. I’m surprised about the size of the difference between Newcastle and other places”.

Dave Byrne, Professor of Applied Social Science at Durham University, has seen the DWP response and commented: “The data are very interesting particularly given the very different states of the local labour markets – it’s much harder to find work on Tyneside than in Surrey. Yet we see this gross variation in assessment of fitness. If this were hospital death data then there would be fireworks”.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) New Claims – Outcomes of initial claims where functional assessment has been completed, for musculo-skeletal conditions – 27 October 2008 to 30th November 2012

Volume of caseloads Percentage of completed assessment caseloads
Outcomes of claims where functional assessment has been completed Outcomes of claims where functional assessment has been completed
Entitled to ESA: Fit for Work Any outcome Entitled to ESA: Fit for Work Any outcome
Work Related Activity Group Support Group Either group Work Related Activity Group Support Group Either group
(a) (b) (a + b) (c) (a + b + c) (a) (b) (a + b) (c) (a + b + c)
Great Britain 67,790 19,370 87,160 162,920 250,080 27 8 35 65 100
West London 1,310 350 1,650 4,520 6,170 21 6 27 73 100
Newcastle 280 100 380 1,400 1,780 16 6 21 79 100
Sheffield 580 150 730 1,380 2,110 27 7 35 65 100
Woking 80 20 90 100 190 39 9 48 52 100

 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) New Claims – Outcomes of initial claims where functional assessment has been completed, for cardio-vascular conditions – 27 October 2008 to 30th November 2012

Volume of caseloads Percentage of completed assessment caseloads
Outcomes of claims where functional assessment has been completed Outcomes of claims where functional assessment has been completed
Entitled to ESA: Fit for Work Any outcome Entitled to ESA: Fit for Work Any outcome
Work Related Activity Group Support Group Either group Work Related Activity Group Support Group Either group
(a) (b) (a + b) (c) (a + b + c) (A) (B) (A + B) (C) (A + B + C)
Great Britain 19,160 15,530 34,690 37,510 72,200 27 22 48 52 100
West London 390 310 690 930 1,620 24 19 43 57 100
Newcastle 60 80 140 260 400 16 19 35 65 100
Sheffield 200 140 330 340 670 29 21 50 50 100
Woking 20 20 40 20 60 30 37 67 33 100

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) New Claims – Outcomes of Repeat claims where functional assessment has been completed, for musculo-skeletal conditions – 27 October 2008 to 30th November 2012

Volume of caseloads Percentage of completed assessment caseloads
Outcomes of claims where functional assessment has been completed Outcomes of claims where functional assessment has been completed
Entitled to ESA: Fit for Work Any outcome Entitled to ESA: Fit for Work Any outcome
Work Related Activity Group Support Group Either group Work Related Activity Group Support Group Either group
(a) (b) (a + b) (c) (a + b + c) (a) (b) (a + b) (c) (a + b + c)
Great Britain 64,120 28,430 92,540 42,300 134,840 48 21 69 31 100
West London 1,090 530 1,620 970 2,580 42 20 63 37 100
Newcastle 290 210 500 420 920 31 23 54 46 100
Sheffield 510 230 740 420 1,160 44 20 64 36 100
Woking 70 20 90 20 110 61 18 79 21 100

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) New Claims – Outcomes of Repeat claims where functional assessment has been completed, for cardio-vascular conditions – 27 October 2008 to 30th November 2012

Volume of caseloads Percentage of completed assessment caseloads
Outcomes of claims where functional assessment has been completed Outcomes of claims where functional assessment has been completed
Entitled to ESA: Fit for Work Any outcome Entitled to ESA: Fit for Work Any outcome
Work Related Activity Group Support Group Either group Work Related Activity Group Support Group Either group
(a) (b) (a + b) (c) (a + b + c) (A) (B) (A + B) (C) (A + B + C)
Great Britain 14,990 15,680 30,670 10,000 40,670 37 39 75 25 100
West London 280 330 600 170 770 36 42 78 22 100
Newcastle 50 80 120 100 220 21 35 56 44 100
Sheffield 150 140 290 110 400 38 34 72 28 100
Woking 20 10 20 10 30 52 28 79 21 100

Source: Data in the tables above is derived from administrative data held by the DWP and assessment data provided by Atos Healthcare.

Notes:

(1) There is a reporting lag of approximately 8-months at the issuing date of this statistical output owing to the time needed to process data and time allowed to enable each cohort’s assessment phase to elapse.

(2) Figures rounded to nearest 10. Totals may not sum due to the rounding method used.

(3) Percentages have been rounded to the nearest percentage point.

(4) Data for West London is a total for the local authorities of Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Hounslow, Harrow and Hillingdon.

(5) A diagnosed medical condition does not mean that someone is automatically entitled to ESA. Entitlement is dependent on an assessment based on their ability to carry out the range of activities assessed by the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), or the effects of any associated mental health problems.

These statistics are only collected for administrative purposes

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