What is Employment & Support Allowance?

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Employment and Support Allowance or ESA is a benefit designed to help if you have an illness or disability that means you can’t work.

It is split into two parts and can be claimed alongside other benefits.  It is also being replaced by the Universal Credit which is slowly rolling out across the country.

ESA basics

The ESA benefit is split into two types:

  • Contribution-based ESA – if you have paid enough national insurance contributions, you might be able to claim this
  • Income-related ESA – if you are on a low income you may be able to claim this and also the contribution based ESA

When you apply to claim ESA, there is an assessment process that takes place over at least 13 weeks.  This is when they decide what type of benefit you will receive if you are eligible. There are two groups that are used to separate people who receive ESA depending on their health or disability:

  • Work-related activity group – this is where you prepare to return to work and get support doing it
  • Support group – this is where you are unable to work due to disability or illness

Who can claim ESA?

To be able to claim one of the types of ESA you need to be under State Pension age and have an illness or disability that affects your ability to work.  You also can’t be claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support or Statutory Sick Pay. For the income-related ESA, you also need to have no or a low income, not be claiming Universal Credit already and have no more than £16,000 in savings.

You can still claim ESA if you receive PIP payments.  That’s because PIP is paid to people who have problems in daily life due to their medical condition or disability.  This means it is effective for different things. You can also ring the PIP contact number if you want to double check what you receive and if you can claim ESA with it.

How to make a claim

To claim for ESA, you can call the number 0843 133 7112, and they can go through the process over the phone.  You can also visit the website and download the claim form.  You will need a medical certificate from your GP and their contact information for this.

You will then receive a medical assessment form called a work capability assessment which you complete and return.  Once they have received this, DWP can decide if you are eligible and let you know what happens next.