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Last updated:
19/06/2020

How to prepare for your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment

If you want to claim Universal Credit with a limited capability for work element, you will need to go for a Work Capability Assessment. We explain how to prepare for your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) use the Work Capability Assessment to decide if you can claim Universal Credit with a limited capability for work element. Find out more about applying for Universal Credit with a mental health condition.

After you have completed your UC50 form - the health questionnaire - most people will have to go to a medical assessment. The service will send you a letter telling you the date, time and location of your assessment.

The Work Capability Assessment is held at an assessment centre and run by the Health Assessment Advisory Service. A healthcare professional, usually a doctor or a nurse, will conduct your assessment by asking you questions about your day-to-day life and anything they want you to explain further.

You must attend your assessment. If you don't go, the DWP will assume you're fit for work. If you need to rearrange your assessment because you're unwell, make sure you call the Health Assessment Advisory Service before your appointment.

Limited capability for work-related activity assessment

As part of your Work Capability assessment, the DWP will assess if you have limited capability for work (LCW) or limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA).

If the DWP, agree that you meet one or more of the criteria below you will be placed in the limited capability for work-related activity group for Universal Credit.

Assessment task Criteria
Learning Tasks Cannot learn how to complete a simple task, such as setting an alarm clock, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder.
Awareness of Hazard

Reduced awareness of everyday hazards, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder, leads to a significant risk of:

  • Injury to self or others, or
  • Damage to property or possessions Such that they require supervision for the majority of the time to maintain safety.
Initiating and completing personal action (which means planning, organisation, problem solving, prioritising or switching tasks) Cannot, due to impaired mental function, reliably initiate or complete at least two sequential personal actions.
Coping with change Cannot cope with any change, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder, to the extent that day-to-day life cannot be managed.
Coping with social engagement, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder Engagement in social contact is always precluded due to difficulty relating to others or significant distress experienced by the individual.
Appropriateness of behaviour with other people, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder Has, on a daily basis, uncontrollable episodes of aggressive or disinhibited behaviour that would be unreasonable in any workplace.
Conveying food or drink to the mouth
  • Cannot convey food or drink to the claimant’s own mouth without receiving physical assistance from someone else,
  • Cannot convey food or drink to the claimant’s own mouth without repeatedly stopping, experiencing breathlessness or severe discomfort,
  • Cannot convey food or drink to the claimant’s own mouth without receiving regular prompting given by someone else in the claimant’s physical presence, or
  • Owing to a severe disorder of mood or behaviour, fails to convey food or drink to the claimant’s own mouth without receiving:
    • Physical assistance from someone else, or
    • Regular prompting given by someone else in the claimant’s presence.
Chewing or swallowing food or drink
  • Cannot chew or swallow food or drink,
  • Cannot chew or swallow food or drink without repeatedly stopping, experiencing breathlessness or severe discomfort,
  • Cannot chew or swallow food or drink without repeatedly receiving regular prompting given by someone else in the claimant’s presence, or
  • Owing to a severe disorder of mood or behaviour, fails to:
    • Chew or swallow food or drink; or
    • Chew or swallow food or drink without regular prompting given by someone else in the claimant’s presence.

Making arrangements for your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment

Before you attend your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment, you should check with the Health Assessment Advisory Service that the centre you're going to has got everything you require to feel comfortable. If it hasn't, you can ask them to make adjustments. For example:

  • The healthcare professional to be a specialist in mental health.
  • Ask for any adjustments that would make the assessment less stressful:
  • For example, you can request an open room if you struggle in confined spaces.
  • Ask for an interpreter or signer if you need one.
  • Ask for the assessor to be the same gender as you.
  • Ask if you can make an audio recording of the assessment.

To ask for an adjustment, phone the Health Assessment Advisory Service in advance using the number on your appointment letter.

Can I have my Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment at home if I find it difficult to travel?

If your mental health condition makes it difficult or impossible for you to travel to your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment, you can request for the assessment to take place at your 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 provide evidence from your healthcare professional such as a Doctor, or Community Psychiatric Nurse to explain why you are unable to travel to an Assessment Centre.

A healthcare professional will consider this information, and they will decide if you need a home visit.

Can I take someone with me to the assessment?

If you would feel more comfortable, you can take someone with you to support you at your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment - this could be a friend, relative, carer or a Social Worker.

This can also help as they might be able to give further information to the assessor about how your condition affects your day-to-day.

H3: Can I record my Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment?

You do not have a legal right to record your assessment, and the DWP does not have to provide recording equipment.

If you want to record your interview, you must request an audio recording before the assessment takes place and as soon as possible after you have received your appointment.

You can take your 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.
  • 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 healthcare professional at the end of the assessment.
  • You must complete a consent form.

How to prepare for your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment

Making notes about what you want to say to the advisor will help you prepare for your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment and reduce your stress on the day. You should make notes on the following:

  • Think about how your mental health condition affects you - particularly on bad days. For example, on a bad day, you can't get out of bed because you are depressed.
  • Make a note of the tasks you have difficulty with, or can't do at all - for example, socialising, or visiting crowded places, or being in confined spaces.

You can 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.

When you have a mental health condition, there isn't always a 'normal day' so you will need to explain how your condition can change day-to-day.

You should keep a diary 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.

Gathering supporting evidence for your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment

You should take copies of any supporting evidence you have provided previously to the DWP, 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 make a copy of the supporting evidence, as this will help them to write their medical report.

What to take with you for your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment

When attending your assessment, you will need to take your passport as a form of personal identification. If you don't have a passport, you will need to take three of the following forms of identification:

  • Your birth certificate.
  • Your full driving licence.
  • A recent bank statement that shows your name and address.
  • A gas or electricity bill.

You should take the following to your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment:

  • Any pills or medication you take.
  • Any aids and appliances that you use.
  • A copy of your Work Capability Assessment questionnaire.
  • Any supporting evidence you have.
  • A day-to-day diary of your life to highlight your condition.
  • Any notes you have made before the assessment that you would like to mention.

Claiming back travel expenses for a Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment?

You can receive travel expenses back after you attend your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment.

To receive travel expenses back into your bank account you will need to bring all details with you to the assessment (tickets, receipts, your bank details etc.), and the receptionist will help you fill in the claim form.

If you plan to travel by taxi, you must get the assessment centre to agree to this before your assessment.

If you plan to travel by car, you can claim back the cost of parking and a price per mile (e.g. 25p per mile) to help towards fuel.

You can also claim back the fares of anyone who needs to come with you for support by letting the Health Assessment Advisory Service know.

What happens at your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment?

When you go to your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment, an independent healthcare professional will assess how your mental illness or disability affects your ability to work.

They will use the information provided in your Work Capability Assessment questionnaire, any supporting evidence you have provided and make opinions based on what you have said or done on the assessment day.

The assessor will ask you some questions about your health, what you have put in your questionnaire but they might also ask you some general questions such as:

  • How did you get here today?
  • What do you do on a typical 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?

They may also ask you to do some physical tasks during the assessment. The assessor might also similarly examine you like a doctor would.

Tips for attending your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment with a mental health condition

Attending a Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment can be a scary prospect. However, we have listed several tips so you can prepare the best way you can:

  • Take your time when answering the assessor's questions as it's essential to tell them how your mental health affects you.
  • Try to give detailed examples rather than yes and no to any questions. For instance, they might ask you if you can use a telephone – at first, you may think you can use a phone easily, but maybe your anxiety stops you from using it some days, or you are paranoid about who is calling.
  • Make sure you explain everything you can that's relevant to your mental health condition or disability, even if it's already on your questionnaire.

There are also several things you shouldn't do at your assessment:

  • Lie about your condition.
  • Feel you have to do anything you usually can't do.
  • Expect the assessor to help you get the result you want - they're there to ask questions and give an independent assessment to the DWP.

After your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment

If you haven't requested to record your assessment, you should make some notes - this can be helpful if you disagree with the decision the DWP makes - once the assessment has finished:

  • How long was your assessment?
  • What questions did they ask you?
  • What were your answers?

Remember the assessor doesn't decide if you can claim Universal Credit with a limited capability for work - they make a recommendation to the DWP.

You should ask for a copy of your assessment from the DWP office that is assessing your claim - the phone number to contact will be on any of the forms for your Universal Credit claim.

After your Universal Credit Work Capability Assessment, a DWP decision-maker will look at your claim, and make a decision based on your:

  • Universal Credit application.
  • Work Capability Assessment questionnaire.
  • Work Capability Assessment report.
  • Any supporting evidence.

The DWP will then send you a letter once they've made their decision, explaining why you will or won't get a Universal Credit limited capability for work element.

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