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The non-functional descriptors have no points attached but instead have a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer: Is the claimant unable to eat or drink? Is the medical condition life-threatening and uncontrollable? Will the claimant probably die within 6 months?
Would the claimant's health be at substantial risk if they were found fit for work or for work-related activity?
Other factors that might be taken into account here include: The claimant is pregnant There is a risk to others Intravenous therapy is being administered The claimant has cancer Summary[ edit ] The process uses fixed criteria and a system of points in an attempt to differentiate between people claiming ESA whose disability does not substantially affect their ability to work and those who do face significant barriers to employment.
Within the latter group, the WCA tries to identify successful claimants who have one or more severe functional disabilities: A 'yes' answer to a non-functional descriptor question will usually lead to the claimant being treated as though they were in the Support Group.
In practice[ edit ] The first step in a new claim for Employment and Support Allowance is for the claimant to ask their doctor for a certificate stating that they are unfit for work.
Next, the claimant contacts the DWP. At this point, the DWP conducts a basic screen of the claim and then usually sends out a more detailed form for the claimant to fill in, called the ESA The claimant then enters the 'assessment phase' and will normally be paid 'assessment rate ESA' for at least the next 13 weeks, at the rate they would be paid if they were on Jobseekers Allowance.
Despite the name, no assessment takes place during the 'assessment phase'; it is intended to allow people with medium term medical problems, such as a broken bone, to recover before any more detailed assessment is carried out. The main assessment process starts as soon as can be arranged after 13 weeks from the initial claim, when a healthcare professional approved by the DWP scrutinises the ESA50 claim form and decides whether to seek further evidence from the claimant's GP or another appropriate source.
If the evidence shows that, on balance, according to the legally-defined criteria of the test, the claimant could not reasonably be expected to work or prepare for work, then a face-to-face assessment should not be necessary, the claimant should be recommended for the Support Group, and the higher rate of ESA usually granted.
Otherwise, the healthcare professional arranges a face-to-face assessment — usually in an examination centre, but occasionally in the claimant's home. At face-to-face assessments, the assessors — who are nurses, doctors or physiotherapists — are guided and prompted by a computer programme, designed by Atos in conjunction with the DWP, called the 'Logic-integrated Medical Assessment' or 'LiMA'.
A large amount of lifestyle data and some clinical information is obtained from the claimant and is entered into the computer by the assessor, mostly by selecting pre-determined 'one click' options from an on-screen menu.
As the assessment progresses, LiMA tries to gauge both the impact of the disability on the person's daily life and the person's fitness for work — but while LiMA suggests options to the assessor, it is ultimately the healthcare professional who is responsible for making the recommendations.
As well as taking a clinical history and exploring the claimant's 'Typical Day', the healthcare professional will make general observations of the claimant's hearing, mobility and posture, etc.
The claimant's mental state will to a large degree become apparent as the interview progresses, but specific questions might be asked in order to elucidate any disordered thinking, abnormalities of perception or cognitive impairment.
If assessors are unsure how to apply the test's criteria in specific cases, telephone advice is available. During the face-to-face assessment, if it becomes clear that the claimant qualifies for the Support Group on the grounds of severe functional disability, the interview should be brought to an early close and the finding recorded as a short note on the claimant's file as a recommendation to the DWP decision-maker.
Otherwise, after the interview and any examination the findings are summarised in free text using Standard English prose and the report, constructed mainly from the LiMA options selected by the assessor during the interview phase of the assessment, is sent electronically to the DWP.
The whole report attempts both to record all the findings and to justify the recommendation on fitness for work. The way the test has been carried out has been strongly criticised.
The semi-structured interview style and the use of decision-making software led to a suspicion that the WCA was merely a Whitehall box-ticking exercise:In fact, people with disabilities can do some things that nondisabled people cannot do, bringing their experience and focus to key aspects of a task.
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