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Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you cannot work because of disability, you might be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Types of ESA

There are 3 types of ESA:

  • ‘New Style’ ESA
  • Contributory ESA (or contribution-based ESA)
  • Income-related ESA

If you already claim ESA, but are unsure which type, check your decision letter. You can also call the Jobcentre Plus on 0800 169 0310.

If you want to start claiming ESA, you can only claim ‘New Style’ ESA.

Warning You cannot start a claim for income-related or contributory ESA

You can no longer make a new claim for income-related ESA or contributory ESA. Universal Credit and ‘New Style’ ESA have replaced these.

Universal Credit (UC)

You cannot receive Universal Credit if you and have savings of £16,000 or more. If you live with a partner, your combined savings must be under £16,000.

ESA eligibility

ESA eligibility depends on your age, condition and income. You must:

  • be at least 16 and under State Pension age
  • have an illness or condition that affects your ability to work

You cannot claim ESA if you receive:

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
  • Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
  • Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

You can receive other benefits, like Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and claim ESA.

Check if you can claim ESA (Citizens Advice)

Warning If you are terminally ill

If it's reasonable to think that your illness could be terminal within 12 months, you can apply to fast-track your ESA application. You also are exempt from the claimant commitment and face to face assessment.

Get benefits if you're terminally ill (GOV.UK)

How to claim ESA

You can work while you are claiming ESA if:

  • you work less than 16 hours a week and
  • you do not earn more than £152 a week (after tax)

Working while you claim ESA (GOV.UK)

This is known as permitted work and will not affect the amount of ESA you receive. If you claim ESA and want to start working, you will need to complete a PW1 form. This is what the work coach will use to decide whether it is permitted work or not.

Permitted work on benefits

If you are a full-time student, this can change your eligibility for benefits. You could still claim ESA or Universal Credit.

Full-time students and benefits (Turn2us)

Warning Get expert advice

Depending on your circumstances, you might receive more money by claiming Universal Credit or a combination of other benefits. A benefits expert will be able to advise you.

Find a benefits adviser (Turn2us)

Claiming ESA when you live with someone

If you are living with a partner, you must make a couple's claim, even if 1 person is eligible for ESA. This will affect how much money you can receive. Use a benefits calculator to find out how.

Benefits calculator (Turn2us)

Living with a partner means 2 adults in the same household. They can be:

  • married
  • civil partners
  • in a relationship
  • sharing the same house as if they are in a relationship 

Other benefits you can claim with ESA

When you claim ESA, you might be entitled to other benefits. These can include:

Speak to a benefits adviser or use a benefits calculator for more information.

Work Capability Assessment (WCA)

You will have a Work Capability Assessment if you claim ESA. This will decide how much money you receive.

The assessment usually has 2 parts:

  1. a form you fill in
  2. an interview with a healthcare professional, also called a medical assessment

Work Capability Assessment for ESA or Universal Credit

Claimant commitments

After the WCA, your work coach will discuss your claimant commitment with you. You will need to agree to this if you want to receive ESA. Claimant commitments can include:

  • looking for work
  • preparing for job interviews
  • voluntary work
  • completing courses to add to your CV

Warning Benefits sanctions

Your benefits can be reduced if you do not do things in your claimant commitment.

Talk to your work coach if you cannot meet your claimant commitment.

If you’re struggling to complete the work-related activities in your claimant commitment, ask your work coach if they can change them.

Changing your claimant commitment (Citizens Advice)

If your work coach says they cannot be changed, you can make a complaint to DWP.

Complaints procedure (DWP)

Challenging a benefits decision

If you do not agree with the DWP decision about your benefit claim, you can challenge it.

You might want to challenge the decision if:

  • your claim is rejected
  • you’ll get less money than you thought

Appealing a benefits decision

Change of circumstances

If your circumstances change, you should let DWP know. This can include:

  • moving house
  • someone moving in with you
  • starting work
  • changes to your condition that are not normal fluctuations you experience
  • being admitted to hospital for over 28 days If you are unsure whether to report a change, speak to your work coach.

Report a change of circumstances (GOV.UK)

Work and benefits

'New Style' ESA claim ending

Your ESA will last 12 months if you are claiming:

  • ‘New Style’ or contributory ESA, and
  • are in the work-related activity group

If your claim is due to end soon, you could see what other financial support is available. This might include applying for other benefits. You can:

  • use a benefits calculator
  • ask a benefits adviser
  • understand how your savings might affect a benefits claim
  • see if you can get support with your energy costs

Savings and means-tested benefits

Help with gas and electricity bills

Missed payments

It can be worrying if you do not receive an ESA payment. You might not receive a payment if:

  • there is a technical error
  • your claim has been stopped
  • you have been in the work-related activity group for 12 months

If you have not received an ESA payment, contact DWP. Your work coach will not know why a payment has been missed.

Contact DWP about an existing benefit claim (GOV.UK)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 19/04/2022

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