I understand concerns regarding changes to the wording of the Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) ESA65B letters, sent to GPs. I agree that it is important that all of the DWP's communications are clear, accurate and understandable.
Although the DWP has recognised that GPs have indicated a lack of clarity, the letters are not intended to dissuade GPs from issuing fit notes for ESA appeal purposes. The guidance is being updated and I have been informed that the revised version is expected to be delivered by the summer.
It may be helpful if I set out the position which is that claimants can be paid Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) whilst appealing a decision, the rate of which is equivalent to that of Jobseeker's Allowance. In order for someone to be paid ESA pending an appeal they need to provide the DWP with fit notes in order to be treated as having Limited Capability for Work until the appeal is determined. This does not apply when 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 such a case, the claimant would need to claim new style Jobseeker's Allowance or Universal Credit.
I hope this helps to reassure people of the DWP's ongoing work to ensure the welfare system is both efficient and compassionate and I will continue to support improvements when necessary.