Demos is excited to announce the launch of a new report from academic Ben Baumberg Geiger and Demos think tank, which sets out a clear vision for how a better Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is possible.

The report shows that while many members of the British public are concerned about ‘undeserving’ people claiming incapacity benefits – many are also concerned that ‘genuinely’ disabled people are being unfairly denied them. More people surveyed said they knew a deserving claimant who has struggled to get benefits than a claimant who is not genuinely disabled (28 per cent vs 19 per cent). And even more of the public thought it was important to support genuine claimants than to root out fraud (45 per cent vs 22 per cent).

The survey conducted for the research also found that while a majority of citizens think that disabled people’s benefits should be cut if they do not take a job they can do, they are less supportive of sanctioning for minor non-compliance, such as sometimes turning up late for meetings. What’s more, even those who do support sanctions prefer much weaker sanctions than those the Government presently uses.

Amidst concerns about the efficacy of WCA assessments, the report makes a range of robust recommendations to reform the system, such as:

  • The Government should ensure that assessors’ reports can unquestionably be trusted by audio recording all sessions and reviewing an annual sample.
  • Assessors should be required to ask claimants if they have an explanation for any evidence which seemingly contradicts their description of their impairments, rather than jumping to the decision that they are wrong.
  • Overhauling the ‘descriptors’ to better reflect the realities of the British labour market, including allowing for the combined effect of multiple impairments – likely the case for at least half of all disabled people.
  • The Government should reduce the extent of benefit conditionality disabled people face and strengthen safeguards to ensure disabled people are not unfairly sanctioned for failing to meet impossible conditions.


The full report can be downloaded here.

An appendix for the report if available here.