Your Money Matters 
 Information and advice for Tameside residents 
 Welfare Reform in 

 Information and advice for 
 Tameside residents 
 Reform in 

Employment And Support Allowance (ESA)

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for working age people who are unable to work because of a disability or health condition.

If you are already getting ESA, you should check if you are able to get Personal Independence Payment as well.

Income-related ESA has now been replaced with Universal Credit, but anyone is receipt of this can stay on income related ESA until they are transferred across to Universal Credit.

How To Apply

You can claim ESA by ringing the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on 0800 0556688 (textphone 0800 0234888). After the call, the DWP will post you a written statement of the information you have given them. You need to check that this information is correct, if any part is incorrect you must get this amended. Sign the statement, and return it using the envelope provided along with a copy of a current 'sick note' (or 'fit note') from your doctor.

If you know you will struggle with the phone call, you or someone acting on your behalf can ring the DWP, explain the situation, and ask about alternative ways of claiming.

What Happens After I Apply?

You can receive either contribution-based ESA (if you have paid enough National Insurance contributions recently) or income-related ESA (if you have not paid enough contributions, and your household income and savings are low enough).

Contribution-based ESA can only be paid for up to 365 days, unless you are put in the support group. You may be able to claim income-related ESA when your contribution-based ESA runs out or to top up contribution based ESA.

When you first claim ESA, you are in the 'assessment phase', which can last up to 13 weeks. The DWP uses the Work Capability Assessment to decide whether you can get ESA after the 'assessment phase' ends. As part of the assessment, you will get an ESA50 form asking you for more information on how your disability or health condition affects you. Return your completed form to the DWP within the deadline given to you, and keep a photocopy for yourself.

After the DWP has looked at your completed ESA50 form, most people will then have to go for a medical assessment. These are done by a private healthcare company on behalf of the DWP. At present these take place in Manchester or Stockport, though this could change in the future. The assessor will look at how your disability or health condition affects how well you can do certain tasks. The assessment, along with your completed ESA50 form, is how the DWP decides whether you can receive ESA (and which 'group' you should be in) after the 'assessment phase' ends.

Useful tips on how to fill out an ESA50 form and pass a medical assessment can be found in this Tameside MBC Welfare Rights Service factsheet.

The 'Support' & 'Work-Related Activity' Groups

If the DWP decides you can get ESA after the 'assessment phase', you will be put in either the 'work-related activity group’ or the 'support group'.

You will get extra money once you are put in the support group. This extra money will be backdated to the start of the 14th week after the date your claim started.

If you are put in the 'work-related activity group', you will be expected to do some things to help overcome barriers to returning to work. If you fail to do these things without good reason, your ESA may be stopped or reduced for a while (i.e. you will be 'sanctioned'). You cannot be 'sanctioned' for not applying for a particular job, or for not accepting a job offer.

If you are put in the 'support group' because the DWP sees your health condition or disability as being more severe, you will not be expected to do any of this 'work-related activity'.

The Benefits And Work website has a useful on-line tool for estimating if your health condition or disability may qualify you for ESA, and whether you may be put in the 'work-related activity group' or the 'support group'.

Challenging ESA Decisions

For general information on how to challenge benefit decisions, please click here. You usually have only 1 month to challenge DWP benefits decisions.

If you are unhappy with a decision to put you in a particular group (e.g. if you think you should be in the 'support group'), please get further advice before challenging the decision.

If you are turned down for ESA, or if you are 'sanctioned', useful information on how to challenge the decision can be found in this Tameside MBC Welfare Rights Service factsheet.

Repeat claims

You will not be able to reclaim ESA within 6 months of your decision, if you were found capable of doing some work after your Work Capability Assessment unless you are claiming for a new condition or worsening of the same condition.

If the DWP refuses you ESA after you have completed an ESA50 form or attended a medical assessment, you could claim Jobseekers Allowance instead while you challenge their decision. If then you go on to appeal their decision, once your completed appeal form is received by HM Courts & Tribunals Service you can ask the DWP to stop your JSA claim. You then need to ring 0800 0556688 to ask for your ESA claim to be reinstated. Ask for your ESA claim to be 'fast-tracked' because you will be facing hardship otherwise, and ask for 'severe hardship payments'. You will have to provide a copy of your current 'sick note' (or 'fit note') at this point.

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Getting Advice

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