Work capability assessment for mental health

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Health Assured team

24 June 2019

This assessment is required by the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP).

It’s used to decide an employee’s entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) when they’re unable to work due to an illness or injury.

In another post, we explain the process of applying for ESA including a general mental health screening and the requirements that need to be met.

This piece focuses on the work capability assessment for mental health. It looks at how an employee’s mental state can affect their ability to work. It also explores questions relating to mental health within the questionnaire.

How to get a mental health assessment

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) determines if a person is entitled to ESA.

It’s divided into two parts:

  1. Health questionnaire.
  2. Face-to-face appointment.

The first part of the process involves filling out the ESA50 form. In it, they’ll need to explain how their illness or injury affects their ability to work.

The questionnaire is also divided into two parts:

  • The first focuses on an employee’s physical health.
  • While the second is about their mental and intellectual functions.

Employers can also hire a healthcare expert to carry out an occupational health assessment for mental health.

The aim of this is to identify the employee’s ability (or lack thereof) to perform their work. And with the results, the healthcare professional is able to identify and advise on the most suitable and reasonable adjustments.

How does mental health assessment work?

The aim of the health questionnaire is to build an accurate picture of their current state and needs. It assesses their physical and mental health to determine how it affects their ability to work. 

When filling the ESA50 questionnaire, they can make a note about the need to speak to an expert in mental health. While this isn’t guaranteed, the DWP is likely to take into account.

It’s worth noting, they’ll have four weeks to fill and return the form to the DWP. If an employee requires more time, they must contact the DWP explaining how much more time they need and why.

Questions in mental health assessment

The second part of the questionnaire is a mental health capacity assessment.

The first question in this section requires the employee to list any healthcare professional with knowledge of their health condition including their contact information. This may include a:

  • GP.
  • Psychologist.
  • Psychiatrist.

Where relevant, they’ll need to consider issues relating to their:

  • Mental health including symptoms and similar experiences.
  • Feelings, thoughts and actions.
  • Physical wellbeing.
  • Employment and possible reasonable adjustments.
  • Social and family relationships.
  • Culture and ethnic background.
  • Gender and sexuality.
  • Use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Issues relevant to their or others' safety.
  • Dependents including children or elderly relatives.
  • Strengths and skills, and what helps them best.

Work capability assessment: How many points for mental health?

The DWP issues points for each activity in the questionnaire. To be entitled to ESA, they’ll need to get a total of 15 points.

If they’re thought to have limited capability for work, they’ll be invited to a second interview where they’ll see if they have a limited capability for work-related activities.

It’s worth noting if the employee isn’t experiencing any physical health problems they should tick the first box for each question in part one of the questionnaire.

Expert Advice

To find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Heath Assured on 0844 892 2493.

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