Here is the first in our series of articles answering the most commonly asked questions regarding our work with the DWP. Our first topic is the assessment itself.
Q. What is our role in assessments?
A. We independently carry out the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to discover how a customer’s health condition or disability affects their ability to work. The WCA includes both Limited Capability for Work (LCW) and Limited Capability for Work Related Activity (LCWRA)
LCW is an assessment to help determine benefit entitlement based on the extent to which a customer’s health condition or disability affects their capability for work.
LCWRA is an assessment to determine whether the customer can be placed in the ‘Support Group’ because the effect of their condition is so severe that it would be unreasonable to expect them to engage in work-related activity.
Q. Does Atos Healthcare ask for further medical evidence for customers who apply for ESA?
A. If the information supplied on a customer’s questionnaire (ESA50) suggests that the customer may be eligible for the Support Group (and for IB reassessment customers, or at a second or subsequent referral, the Work Related Activity Group), we may request further medical evidence from their GP or other medical specialist without inviting them for a face to face assessment. We and the Department for Work and Pensions encourage customers to submit any additional medical evidence that may be appropriate for consideration of their claim throughout the process.
Q. What is a non functional descriptor? When is this applied?
A.There may be a very small minority of customers with conditions that don’t fulfil the Support Group criteria, but who may still have limited capability for work. The non-functional descriptor (NFD) covers the following scenarios:
- The customer is suffering from a life threatening disease in relation to which:
- There is medical evidence that the disease is uncontrollable, or uncontrolled, by a recognised therapeutic procedure
- In the case of a disease this is uncontrolled, there is reasonable cause for it not to be controlled by a recognised therapeutic procedure
- The customer is suffering from some form of specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and, by reasons of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to their mental or physical health of any person if they were found not to have limited capability for work.
Q. How much notice is given for an assessment?
The standard notice for Employment and Support Allowance is seven days, although sometimes we can agree an earlier appointment with the customer.
Q. Can I arrange a home visit?
A. Yes. You may need to provide medical evidence from your GP, as set out in the DWP policy, to confirm you are unable to travel to an assessment centre.
Q. How far am I expected to travel to the assessment centre?
A customer would not be expected to travel more than 90 minutes by public transport to the assessment centre, following the guidelines from the Department for Work and Pensions. This is the door-to-door time calculated using the Government’s Transport Direct website. If the journey time to a particular assessment centre exceeds 90 minutes, we will consider alternative arrangements.
We may offer a taxi in some cases, such as rural areas where public transport links are less frequent and take longer. If no suitable alternative is found, we’ll offer a home visit. Most customers are within 90 minutes public transport travel time of an assessment centre. We include a journey plan from Transport Direct with each customer’s appointment letter.
Q. Does Atos Healthcare have an overbooking policy?
A. Our booking policy balances the needs of the customer and good customer service with the Department for Work and Pension’s requirement to ensure that the use of our healthcare professional resource is optimised. As some customers don’t attend their appointments we have a policy of overbooking based on local attendance patterns. We try to ensure that, wherever possible, customers are not kept waiting or sent home without being seen by a healthcare professional. Our receptionist will manage appointments, so that the needs of each customer are met.
Q. Are some assessment centres above ground level and what is the policy for customers who are unable to use stairs?
A. The majority of the assessment centre locations that we use are accessible for customers who have difficulty or are unable to manage stairs. If you have concerns please contact us and where appropriate we will work with you to agree an alternative venue. Around 85 per cent of the centres are government owned, often co-located with Jobcentres. The Department of Work and Pensions is working towards all assessment centres having at least one ground floor assessment room.
Q. Can a customer rearrange their assessment appointment more than once?
A. The Department for Work and Pensions only allows an appointment for an assessment to be rearranged once before it is referred back to them. Atos Healthcare Contact Centre staff will explain this to the customer on the Department’s behalf when they rearrange their appointment for the first time.
When the customer rearranges their appointment for a second time, Contact Centre staff explain that this is not possible and if they are not able to attend their assessment at the arranged time, their case file will be returned to the Department and they will receive a letter from Jobcentre Plus asking why they could not attend. Jobcentre Plus would then consider whether there is good cause for not being able to attend.
Q. How long does a WCA take?
A. Each assessment is tailored to the individual so the length of each assessment can vary.
Q.How are fluctuating conditions handled in the assessment?
A. Our healthcare professionals (HCPs) are aware that many medical conditions produce symptoms that vary in intensity over time from mild to severe. Sometimes a customer may be able to perform a task, but not for any significant length of time, or only at an unacceptably slow rate due to pain, fatigue etc. So HCPs are trained not to base their opinion solely on what they observe at the assessment, but to also consider the history and clinical evidence provided. Their aim is to determine the pattern of variability and give an assessment of the overall level of disability for the majority of the time to the decision maker.
Q: How can I get a copy of the assessment report?
A. You can ask for a copy of the report from your local Jobcentre Plus office. Office locations can be found on the website.
As mentioned at the start, over the coming weeks we are going to answer the more of the commonly asked questions regarding our DWP work. So please visit this site again regularly.