Activity 13: Coping with social engagement

Activity 13 is defined in regulations as -

Coping with social engagement, due to cognitive impairment or mental disorder.

Activity 13 assesses the ability to interact with people. The descriptor may be satisfied where there is a significant lack of self-confidence in face-to-face social situations that is greater in its nature and its functional effects than mere shyness or reticence and leads to an inability to engage in any social contact.

Note: in Autumn 2023, the government launched a consultation on reform of the work capability assessment including proposals to remove the LCWRA social engagement activity. However, in its November 2023 response to the consultation, the government confirmed that it will not make any changes to the LCWRA social engagement activity or descriptors.


The descriptor relating to Activity 13 is -

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


See also section of the DWP’s Work Capability Assessment handbook: for healthcare professionals.

Case law

Commentary:​ The use of ‘always’ in descriptor 13 (and other LCWRA descriptors) does not mean ‘always’ in the sense of the claimant never, at any time, whatever the circumstances, being able to engage in social contact. The descriptor has to apply if a claimant suffers from a mental disablement which, for the majority of the time, means he cannot engage in social contact [2014] CSIH 39 (Brade).

Merely attending a medical examination or tribunal is not of itself evidence of an ability to engage in ‘social’ contact [2013] UKUT 446 (AAC) and [2014] UKUT 22 (AAC). However, the ability can still be assessed in any context (including during medical examination) and tribunals must assess the claimant’s capacity to engage, the distress caused, and the impact of distress, on the ability to engage [2013] UKUT 552 (AAC).

In [2014] UKUT 352 (AAC) a three judge panel considers that ‘coping’ and ‘engagement’ require assessments of ‘reciprocity, give and take, initiation and response’ in communication. The panel further holds that a tribunal can use examples of social contact in any context to form its view of what limitations exist which are likely to be effective barrier’s to the claimant working. | Add commentary or suggest an edit.