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Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999

Schedule 8: Part II – Incapacity

Paragraph 23

This paragraph makes amendments to section 171A of the Contributions and Benefits Act, relating to the Personal Capability Assessment provided for in section 61. The intention of the new assessment process is to produce information about people’s capabilities, as well as a decision on their incapacity for work for benefit purposes, and for this information to be used to help them enhance their employment prospects.

Sub-paragraph (2) inserts a new subsection (2A) into section 171A of the Contributions and Benefits Act, to widen the scope of the information or evidence that may be requested from claimants.

Subsection (2) of section 171A of the Act currently provides the power to obtain information and evidence in order to determine whether a person satisfies the test of incapacity for work for purposes of entitlement to benefit. The new Personal Capability Assessment will have a dual function: to determine whether a person satisfies the test for benefit entitlement, and to use information about a person’s capabilities gathered during the assessment process to draw up a “capability report” on what they might nevertheless be able to do with appropriate help and support. New subsection (2A) provides for the collection of “information or evidence capable of being used for assisting the person in question to obtain work or improve his prospects of obtaining it” – i.e. information about people’s work-related capabilities.

In practice, much of the information generated during the Personal Capability Assessment process will be equally relevant to the advice whether a person should be treated as incapable of work for benefit purposes, and to the “capability report”. However there may be additional areas that may usefully be explored – such as what work-related activities the person might be able to do, and what sort of help they might need to do them.

Sub-paragraph (3) deals with the power to require claimants to attend a medical examination.

It amends subsection (3) of section 171A of the Contributions and Benefits Act. Subsection (3) at present provides that a person may be called to attend a medical examination where “a question arises as to” whether a person is capable of work. This is now replaced with “where it falls to be determined” whether a person is capable of work, to make it clear that it is not necessary for a medical examination to be preceded by a particular event which has raised a question in the mind of the decision-maker. This amendment supports the provision in section 61 of this Act to clarify the Secretary of State’s power to require a reassessment.

Sub-paragraph (4) inserts a new subsection (5) into section 171A which ensures that all information supplied under section 171A is treated as social security information, so that powers relating to the exchange and disclosure of social security information apply to it.

This ensures that information collected during the Personal Capability Assessment which relates to a person’s work-related capabilities, as well as information that relates strictly to the question of whether they are technically incapable of work for benefit purposes, can be passed on to personal advisers. It may also be used more generally, for the purpose of enhancing a person’s employment prospects and rehabilitation. The relevant powers dealing with information are section 3 of the Social Security Act 1998 and section 72 of this Act (see later commentary).

Paragraph 24 makes a minor change of wording, consequential on the renaming of the All Work Test.

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