Why we are advocating against the DWP’s proposed changes to the Work Capability Assessment

In September the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched a consultation proposing changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) that will impact people living with Crohn’s or Colitis in England, Wales and Scotland. Read on to find out why we are opposed to these changes and how we have responded.  

The Work Capability Assessment forms part of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit assessment process and assesses someone’s capacity to work. It places successful claimants in one of two categories: Limited Capability for Work (LCW) which means that someone may not be able to look for work now but may be capable of looking for work in the future and has to take part in work-related activity or Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (LCWRA) which means that someone does not have to look for work or prepare for work.   

This Autumn, the DWP proposed changes to a variety of descriptors on the presumed basis that more people are able to work from home due to changes in employer attitudes to hybrid and flexible working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and greater employee rights for flexible working requests through the new Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill.  

What did DWP propose? 

The consultation proposed three options:  

  1. Remove the Absence or loss of bowel/bladder control (Continence) activity entirely for both LCW and LCWRA.
  2. Amend the LCWRA Absence or loss of bowel/bladder control (Continence) descriptor so that claimants are required to experience symptoms ‘daily’ rather than ‘weekly’. 
  3. Reduce the points awarded for the LCW Absence or loss of bowel/bladder control (Continence) descriptors. 

We strongly oppose these proposals, particularly the dilution and the loss of the bowel and bladder control descriptor and urged the DWP to reconsider their approach.  

What did we say? 

We argued that there is little evidence that people with Crohn’s or Colitis have benefited from hybrid and flexible working. In fact, there is substantial evidence suggesting that many might be in insecure or semi-routine occupations, which do not lend themselves to remote or hybrid working.  

We highlighted the multiple barriers that you face when entering the job market, retaining jobs and requesting reasonable adjustments. We made the case that even when adjustments are put in place, it is unreasonable to expect an employee to work with episodes of urgency and incontinence even if working from home.  

I spent from morning till night sat on my toilet with a laptop crying in agony as I tried to type while fighting the urge to collapse.

We argued that these proposals assume that an employer will make allowances for someone to excuse themselves from meetings or shop/factory floor and raised our concerns that they will promote harmful coping strategies such as not eating before and at work, or taking high levels of anti-diarrheals in order to present at work.  

You can read our full response here.   

Next steps 

We will continue to call on the DWP to urgently reform the continence descriptors, ensuring that any WCA reforms are co-produced with people living with Crohn’s and Colitis.   

You're stories are powerful and can make a real difference. We are always keen to hear your experience.


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