Ask CPAG Online - What is limited capability for work related activity?

‘Limited capability for work related activity’ (LCWRA) is the legal term which applies to ESA claimants who are assessed as having a physical or mental condition which limits their capability to undertake ‘work related activity’, to the extent that it not reasonable to expect them to do so.1

‘Work related activity’ means mandatory activity (short of seeking or applying for employment) which will help you to obtain or remain in work (e.g. attending courses and skills assessments and taking part in the Government’s ‘Work Programme)2 If you are assessed as having LCWRA, you will qualify for an additional payment of ESA (the ‘support component’) and are exempt from conditionality (see Conditionality and Sanctions).

In practice, whether you have LCWRA is determined by assessing whether you satisfy at least one of a list of descriptors attached to prescribed activities, or can be treated as having LCWRA in specified circumstances.3

It is assessed at the same time as LCW through the work capability assessment (note that if you do not have LCW, you cannot have LCWRA), which normally requires you to complete an ESA50 questionnaire and attend a medical examination carried out on behalf of the DWP by Maximus, before a DWP decision-maker determines whether you have LCWRA. The rules and procedures are explained in detail in Chapter 46 of the CPAG Handbook.

It is important to understand that the test of LCWRA is not generally a test of whether you suffer from a particular illness or disability, or whether you are too ill or disabled to carry out any particular or actual work related activities. It is, rather, a test of whether you satisfy one or more descriptors which indicate a severe impairment of your physical and mental functioning, or whether you should automatically treated as having LCW in prescribed circumstances.

How should you approach the test?

It is best to approach the test systematically in the following way:

  • Firstly, check whether you can be treated as having LCWRA on the basis of being terminally ill; receiving, likely to receive or recovering from chemotherapy or radiotherapy; or pregnancy where there is a serious risk to health (see regulation 35 of the ESA Regulations 2008 for full details). If any of these ‘exemptions’ apply to you, notify the DWP as soon as possible, with any supporting evidence you have.

  • If none of the exemptions apply, go through the list of descriptors in schedule 3 to the ESA Regulations to see if you satisfy any of them. This will help you to provide the relevant information when you complete the ESA50 questionnaire, attend your medical, and dispute a decision that you do not have LCWRA.

  • If you cannot or may not satisfy any of the descriptors, consider whether there would be a substantial risk to health if you were found not to have LCRWA (see regulation 35(2) of the ESA Regulations) and notify the DWP with any supporting evidence.