I am aware that there has been some concern regarding the phrasing of the Department of Work and Pensions’ ESA65B fit note letter that have been sent to ESA claimants' GPs.
I would like to clarify that these letters do not intend to dissuade GPs from issuing fit notes for ESA appeal purposes and it is inaccurate to claim they do so. However, it is essential that all of the DWP's communications are clear, accurate and understandable. The DWP has recognised that GPs have not found the guidance within the letter clear. I have been informed that the letters are being updated with input from medical organisations and a revised version is expected by the summer.
Following failure of a Work Capability Assessment, claimants can be paid Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) whilst appealing the decision, at rate equivalent to that of Jobseeker's Allowance. For someone to be paid ESA pending an appeal the DWP must be provided with fit notes in order to be treated as having Limited Capability for Work until the result of the appeal. These circumstances do not apply if the claimant fails a second Work Capability Assessment or if the claimant's GP does not provide them with a fit note during the appeal period. In which case, the claimant would need to claim the new-style Jobseeker's Allowance or Universal Credit.
The DWP has assured me that they are working continuously to ensure the welfare system operates compassionately and efficiently, and I will continue to support improvements when necessary.