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DWP, in guidance to healthcare professionals working for Maximus, changes suicide from a “definitive” “substantial risk” if forced into work, to something that should be weighed against ‘benefits of employment”.

What: DWP issues updated guidance to healthcare professionals working for Maximus, the contractor that has taken over the WCA contract from Atos. The changes mean that assessors are far less likely to place a claimant with a mental health condition in the ESA support group because of the risk to their health if forced into work-related activity. The previous version of DWP’s Work Capability Assessment Handbook named thoughts of suicide as a “definitive” “substantial risk” that meant the person should be placed in the support group. The new guidance tells Maximus assessors that they should weigh “the benefits of employment…against any potential risk”. The handbook explains that “the main change is that the focus on suicide has been reduced and the question of substantial risk placed in the context of work-related activity (WRA). The Department’s approach is that tailored WRA may be appropriate for most people with mental health conditions, including for people with suicidal thoughts” [See 21 September 2016].

Why significant: DWP takes steps to make it harder for claimants at significant risk of harm because of mental distress to avoid work-related activity, therefore putting many more people at risk of death.


ESA: outcomes of Work Capability Assessments including mandatory reconsiderations and appeals: September 2016
DWP issued guidance that made suicides more likely, then ‘lied’ to cover its tracks, Pring, 2016
'Work Capability Assessment handbook: for healthcare professionals', DWP