ESA - descriptors to determine whether you have 'Limited Capability for Work'

This information identifies the list of criteria known as 'descriptors' that will be used to calculate whether you have limited capability for work and therefore can be awarded ESA.

It will help to look at these descriptors alongside our guide 'ESA – Form filling and the work capability assessment'.

In order to be awarded ESA you must score at least 15 points. These points can be added up from a number of different activities from both the physical and mental disabilities categories. You do not have to score 15 points in each activity – it is the total points that matter.

Part 1: Physical disabilities

Activity 1: Mobilising unaided by another person with or without a walking stick, manual wheelchair or other aid if such aid can reasonably be used.

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot either:
i) mobilise more than 50 metres on level ground without stopping in order to avoid significant discomfort or exhaustion;
ii) or repeatedly mobilise 50 metres within a reasonable timescale because of significant discomfort or exhaustion.
15 Points
b) Cannot mount or descend two steps unaided by another person even with the support of a handrail.
9 Points
Cannot either:
i) mobilise more than 100 metres on level ground without stopping in order to avoid significant discomfort or exhaustion;
or
(ii) repeatedly mobilise 100 metres within a reasonable timescale because of significant discomfort or exhaustion.
9 Points
(d) Cannot either:
(i) mobilise more than 200 metres on level ground without stopping in order to avoid significant discomfort or exhaustion;
or
(ii) repeatedly mobilise 200 metres within a reasonable timescale because of significant discomfort or exhaustion.
6 Points
(e) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity2: Standing and sitting

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot move between one seated position and another seated position located next to one another without receiving physical assistance from another person.
15 Points
(b) Cannot, for the majority of the time, remain at a work station, either:
(i) standing unassisted by another person (even if free to move around); or (ii) sitting (even in an adjustable chair) for more than 30 minutes, before needing to move away in order to avoid significant discomfort or exhaustion.
9 Points
(c) Cannot, for the majority of the time, remain at a work station, either:
(i) standing unassisted by another person (even if free to move around); or (ii) sitting (even in an adjustable chair) for more than an hour before needing to move away in order to avoid significant discomfort or exhaustion.
6 points
(d) None of the above apply
0 Points

Activity3: Reaching

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot raise either arm as if to put something in the top pocket of a coat or jacket.
15 Points
(b) Cannot raise either arm to top of head as if to put on a hat.
9 Points
(c) Cannot raise either arm above head height as if to reach for something.
6 Points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 4: Picking up and moving or transferring by the use of the upper body and arms

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot pick up and move a 0.5 litre carton full of liquid.
15 Points
(b) Cannot pick up and move a one litre carton full of liquid
9 Points
(c) Cannot transfer a light but bulky object such as an empty cardboard box.
6 Points
(d) None of the above apply
0 points

Activity 5: Manual dexterity

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot either:
(i) press a button, such as a telephone keypad; or (ii) turn the pages of a book
with either hand.
15 Points
(b) Cannot pick up a £1 coin or equivalent with either hand.
15 Points
(c) Cannot use a pen or pencil to make a meaningful mark.
9 Points
(d) Cannot use a suitable keyboard or mouse.
9 Points
(e) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 6: Making self understood through speaking, writing, typing, or other means normally used, unaided by another person

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot convey a simple message, such as the presence of a hazard.
15 Points
(b) Has significant difficulty conveying a simple message to strangers.
15 Points
(c) Has some difficulty conveying a simple message to strangers.
6 Points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 points

Activity 7: Understanding communication by both verbal means (such as hearing or lip reading) and non-verbal means (such as reading 16 point print) using any aid it is reasonable to expect them to use, unaided by another person

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot understand a simple message due to sensory impairment, such as the location of a fire escape.
15 Points
(b) Has significant difficulty understanding a simple message from a stranger due to sensory impairment.
15 Points
(c) Has some difficulty understanding a simple message from a stranger due to sensory impairment.
6 Points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 8: Navigation and maintaining safety, using a guide dog or other aid if normally used

Descriptor:
(a) Unable to navigate around familiar surroundings, without being accompanied by another person, due to sensory impairment.
15 Points
(b) Cannot safely complete a potentially hazardous task such as crossing the road, without being accompanied by another person, due to sensory impairment.
15 Points
(c) Unable to navigate around unfamiliar surroundings, without being accompanied by another person, due to sensory impairment.
9 points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 9: Absence or loss of control leading to extensive evacuation of the bowel and/or bladder, other than enuresis (bed-wetting) despite the presence of any aids or adaptations normally used

Descriptor:
(a) At least once a month experiences:
(i) loss of control leading to extensive evacuation of the bowel and/or voiding of the bladder; or (ii) substantial leakage of the contents of a collecting device sufficient to require cleaning and a change in clothing.
15 Points
(b) At risk of loss of control leading to extensive evacuation of the bowel and/or voiding of the bladder, sufficient to require cleaning and a change in clothing, if not able to reach a toilet quickly.
6 Points
(c) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 10: Consciousness during waking moments

Descriptor:
(a) At least once a week, has an involuntary episode of lost or altered consciousness resulting in significantly disrupted awareness or concentration.
15 Points
(b) At least once a month, has an involuntary episode of lost or altered consciousness resulting in significantly disrupted awareness or concentration.
6 Points
(c) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Part 2: Mental, cognitive and intellectual function assessment

Activity 11: Learning tasks

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot learn how to complete a simple task, such as setting an alarm clock.
15 Points
(b) Cannot learn anything beyond a simple task, such as setting an alarm clock.
9 Points
(c) Cannot learn anything beyond a moderately complex task, such as the
steps involved in operating a washing machine to clean clothes.
6 Points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 12: Awareness of everyday hazards (such as boiling water or sharp objects)

Descriptor:
(a) Reduced awareness of everyday hazards leads to a significant risk of:
(i) injury to self or others; or (ii) damage to property or possessions such that they require supervision for the majority of the time to maintain safety.
15 Points
(b) Reduced awareness of everyday hazards leads to a significant risk of
(i) injury to self or others; or (ii) damage to property or possessions such that they frequently require supervision to maintain safety.
9 Points
(c) Reduced awareness of everyday hazards leads to a significant risk of:
(i) injury to self or others; or (ii) damage to property or possessions such that they occasionally require supervision to maintain safety.
6 Points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 13: Initiating and completing personal action (which means planning, organisation, problem solving, prioritising or switching tasks)

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot, due to impaired mental function, reliably initiate or complete at least 2 sequential personal actions.
15 Points
(b) Cannot, due to impaired mental function, reliably initiate or complete at least 2 personal actions for the majority of the time.
9 Points
(c) Frequently cannot, due to impaired mental function, reliably initiate or complete at least 2 personal actions.
6 Points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 14: Coping with change

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot cope with any change to the extent that day to day life cannot be managed.
15 Points
(b) Cannot cope with minor planned change (such as a pre-arranged change to the routine time scheduled for a lunch break), to the extent that overall day to day life is made significantly more difficult.
9 Points
(c) Cannot cope with minor unplanned change (such as the timing of an appointment on the day it is due to occur), to the extent that overall, day to day life is made significantly more difficult.
6 Points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 15: Getting about

Descriptor:
(a) Cannot get to any specified place with which the claimant is familiar.
15 Points
(b) Is unable to get to a specified place with which the claimant is familiar, without being accompanied by another person.
9 Points
(c) Is unable to get to a specified place with which the claimant is unfamiliar without being accompanied by another person.
6 Points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 16: Coping with social engagement due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder

Descriptor:
(a) Engagement in social contact is always precluded due to difficulty relating to others or significant distress experienced by the individual.
15 points
(b) Engagement in social contact with someone unfamiliar to the claimant is always precluded due to difficulty relating to others or significant distress experienced by the individual.
9 Points
(c) Engagement in social contact with someone unfamiliar to the claimant is not possible for the majority of the time due to difficulty relating to others or significant distress experienced by the individual.
6 Points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Activity 17: Appropriateness of behaviour with other people, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder

Descriptor:
(a) Has, on a daily basis, uncontrollable episodes of aggressive or disinhibited behaviour that would be unreasonable in any workplace.
15 Points
(b) Frequently has uncontrollable episodes of aggressive or disinhibited behaviour that would be unreasonable in any workplace.
15 Points
(c) Occasionally has uncontrollable episodes of aggressive or disinhibited behaviour that would be unreasonable in any workplace.
9 Points
(d) None of the above apply.
0 Points

Assessment of whether a claimant has limited capability for work related activity

Activity 1: Mobilising unaided by another person with or without a walking stick, manual wheelchair or other aid if such aid can reasonably be used

Descriptors:
Cannot either:
(a) mobilise more than 50 metres on level ground without stopping in order to
avoid significant discomfort or exhaustion; or
(b) repeatedly mobilise 50 metres within a reasonable timescale because of
significant discomfort or exhaustion.

Activity 2: Transferring from one seated position to another

Descriptors:
Cannot move between one seated position and another seated position located
next to one another without receiving physical assistance from another person.

Activity 3: Reaching

Descriptors:
Cannot raise either arm as if to put something in the top pocket of a coat or
jacket.

Activity 4: Picking up and moving or transferring by the use of the upper body and arms (excluding standing, sitting, bending or kneeling and all other activities specified in this Schedule)

Descriptors:
Cannot pick up and move a 0.5 litre carton full of liquid.

Activity 5: Manual dexterity

Descriptors:
Cannot either:
(a) press a button, such as a telephone keypad; or
(b) turn the pages of a book with either hand.

Activity 6: Making self understood through speaking, writing, typing, or other means normally used

Descriptors:
Cannot convey a simple message, such as the presence of a hazard.

Activity 7: Understanding communication by hearing, lip reading, reading 16 point print or using any aid if reasonably used

Descriptors:
Cannot understand a simple message due to sensory impairment, such as the location of a fire escape.

Activity 8: Absence or loss of control over extensive evacuation of the bowel and/or voiding of the bladder, other than enuresis (bed-wetting), despite the presence of any aids or adaptations normally used

Descriptors:
At least once a week experiences:
(a) loss of control leading to extensive evacuation of the bowel and/or voiding of the bladder; or
(b) substantial leakage of the contents of a collecting device sufficient to require the individual to clean themselves and change clothing.

Activity 9: Learning tasks

Descriptors:
Cannot learn how to complete a simple task, such as setting an alarm clock, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder.

Activity 10: Awareness of hazard

Descriptors:
Reduced awareness of everyday hazards, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder, leads to a significant risk of:
(a) injury to self or others; or
(b) damage to property or possessions s uch that they require supervision for the majority of the time to maintain safety.

Activity 11: Initiating and completing personal action (which means planning, organisation, problem solving, prioritising or switching tasks)

Descriptors:
Cannot, due to impaired mental function, reliably initiate or complete at least two sequential personal actions.

Activity 12: Coping with change

Descriptors:
Cannot cope with any change, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder, to the extent that day to day life cannot be managed.

Activity 13: Coping with social engagement, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder

Descriptors:
Engagement in social contact is always precluded due to difficulty relating to others or significant distress experienced by the individual.

Activity 14: Appropriateness of behaviour with other people, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder

Descriptor:
Has, on a daily basis, uncontrollable episodes of aggressive or disinhibited behaviour that would be unreasonable in any workplace.

Activity 15: Conveying food or drink to the mouth
Descriptors:
(a) Cannot convey food or drink to the claimant's own mouth without receiving physical assistance from someone else;
(b) Cannot convey food or drink to the claimant's own mouth without repeatedly stopping, experiencing breathlessness or severe discomfort;
(c) Cannot convey food or drink to the claimant's own mouth without receivingregular prompting given by someone else in the claimant's physical presence; or
(d) Owing to a severe disorder of mood or behaviour, fails to convey food or drink to the claimant's own mouth without receiving:
(i) physical assistance from someone else; or
(ii) regular prompting given by someone else in the claimant's presence.

Activity 16: Chewing or swallowing food or drink

Descriptors:
(a) Cannot chew or swallow food or drink;
(b) Cannot chew or swallow food or drink without repeatedly stopping, experiencing breathlessness or severe discomfort;
(c) Cannot chew or swallow food or drink without repeatedly receiving regular prompting given by someone else in the claimant's presence; or
(d) Owing to a severe disorder of mood or behaviour, fails to:
(i) chew or swallow food or drink; or (ii) chew or swallow food or drink without regular prompting given by someone else in the claimant's presence.

First published: Wednesday 15 January 2014
Updated: Wednesday 17 August 2016