Will I have to go for a medical assessment?
In most cases, you will also be asked to go to a medical assessment as part of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The assessment is done at an assessment centre and is run by the Health Assessment Advisory Service. A healthcare professional (usually a doctor or nurse) will ask you about a normal day and may not ask you exactly the same questions that are on your health questionnaire.
How should I prepare?
You can prepare for the assessment by making a note of what you want to tell the assessor. Use the answers you put on the health questionnaire as a starting point as this way, if you feel that the assessor does not ask you relevant questions, you can make sure you tell them how your illness affects you.
For someone with a mental health problem, there is not always a ‘normal day’, so explain if your condition changes.
For someone with a mental health problem, there is not always a ‘normal day’, so explain if your condition changes. On a good day, for example, you may be able to get up and get washed and dressed but on bad days, you may stay in bed – you could keep a diary for a week before the assessment to show this and write down your mood, motivation level or which everyday tasks you have done that week. You can also write down how difficult it was to do those tasks.
You can take copies of any supporting evidence, as the assessor may not always have a copy of the supporting evidence that you sent with your health questionnaire. You can ask them to copy and return the originals to you, as this will help them when they write their medical report.
Can I take someone with me to the assessment?
You can take someone with you to your assessment if you would like to – this could be a professional like a Social Worker, a friend or a relative as they may have information about how your condition affects you day-to-day that they can tell the assessor. They are allowed to do this and the assessor should not stop them. The assessment can be stressful and the waiting area can be crowded and noisy, so taking someone with you can help support you in an emotional and practical way.
What if my illness means that I will find it difficult to travel to the assessment centre?
If you feel that you are unable to travel to an Assessment Centre, you can ask to be assessed at home.
If you feel that you are unable to travel to an Assessment Centre, you can ask to be assessed at home. You must contact the Health Assessment Advisory Service before your appointment and you should mention on your health questionnaire that you would need a home assessment.
You will need to get evidence from your healthcare professional such as a Doctor, Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) or Social Worker to explain why you are unable to travel to an Assessment Centre. This information will be considered by a healthcare professional and they will decide if you need a home visit.
Home visits are usually only carried out when you are unable to leave your home for any reason; if you can normally attend GP appointments then you can be reasonably expected to attend an assessment at an assessment centre. If you feel that you cannot attend then you need to explain how your condition stops you from attending.
Can I record my assessment?
You do not have a legal right to record your assessment and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) do not have to provide recording equipment, but the DWP will try to arrange this for you when they can. You must make a request for an audio recording before the assessment takes place and as soon as possible after you have received your appointment.
You can take your own recording equipment as long as it meets certain conditions.
- The recording must be on CD or tape only, so you cannot use laptops, smartphones, tablets or MP3 players.
- Video recording is not allowed.
- The equipment must be able to provide two copies of the recording at the end of the assessment.
- One copy must be given to the DWP healthcare professional at the end of the assessment.
- You must complete a consent form.
You cannot secretly record the assessment and if you do, you may lose your benefit.
What will the assessor ask me?
The assessor will ask you some questions about your health, but they might also ask you some general questions like:
- How did you get here today?
- What do you do in a normal day?
- When was your last job?
- What conditions do you have and what treatment do you get?
- How do you sleep?
- Do you have any hobbies or interests?
- What do you do to socialise?
- Do you have a telephone?
You can take your time when answering the assessor’s questions. It is important to tell them how your illness affects you. Some of the questions they ask you might seem easy to answer, but you can take a moment to think of a detailed answer.
You can take your time when answering the assessor’s questions as it’s important to tell them how your illness affects you. Some of the questions they ask you might seem easy to answer, but you can take a moment to think of a detailed answer. For example, they might ask you if you can use a telephone – at first you may think you can use a telephone easily, but maybe your anxiety stops you from using it some days. By taking a moment to think, you can give detailed answers to the questions.
They may ask you how you got to the medical assessment that day. You should tell them how you got there and you should also say how much effort it took. Below are some questions to consider:
- Have you been anxious and worried about the assessment for days beforehand?
- Did you need someone to make sure you get up and dressed?
- Did someone have to come to the appointment with you?
- What would have happened if they hadn’t helped you?
After the assessment
When you have finished the medical assessment you should make a note of:
- How long you were with the assessor,
- What questions they asked you, and
- The answers you gave.
This information can be useful if you disagree with the decision the DWP makes about your benefit. If you want to appeal, you may need this information.
- What is the Work Capability Assessment?
- The health questionnaire
- Medical assessment
- What happens next?
- What is the support group or the limited capability for work-related activity element?
- The work-related activity group (WRAG)
- Health questionnaire descriptors
- Assessment for limited capability for work-related activity
- Sample letter
- Next steps