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Are you eligible for Employment and Support Allowance?

Financial worries can be a major cause of stress for people who have an illness or disability that affects their ability to work.

Did you know that the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit could provide financial help with your living costs as well as useful advice to help you go out to work if you’re able to?

Types of ESA

Currently, there are three types of ESA:

  • Contribution-based ESA – for those who have paid enough National Insurance contributions.
  • Income-related ESA – for those who are on a low income, payable either on its own or in addition to contribution-based ESA.
  • ‘New style’ ESA – for those who are entitled to claim Universal Credit. This works in the same way as contribution-based ESA. Check on the website to see if you live in an area where you can claim Universal Credit.


You may be eligible to receive the ESA benefit if you’re under the state pension age and have an illness or disability that affects your ability to work. However, you shouldn’t be claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support or Statutory Sick Pay. To claim income-related ESA you must have no income or a low income, and not be claiming Universal Credit or have savings or investments of more than £16,000.

As part of the process you will be asked to complete a medical assessment called a Work Capability Assessment. You’ll then be placed into one of two groups which will determine how much ESA you will receive. The first group is the work-related activity group, which provides guidance for those preparing to return to work including regular interviews with an adviser. The second group, the support group, is for those who are unable to return to work due to their condition.

Benefit payments

The assessment process generally takes 13 weeks and during this time you will usually receive up to £57.90 a week if you’re aged under 25, or up to £73.10 if you’re aged 25 or over. Following the review, if you’re entitled to receive ESA you could then receive up to £73.10 a week if you’re in the work-related activity group, or up to £110.75 a week if you’re in the support group.

But remember, your ESA can be reduced if you do not go to interviews or do work-related activity as agreed with your adviser.

How to make a claim

You can make a new ESA claim by calling the relevant contact centre. For contributory and income-related ESA call 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888), or for the new-style ESA call 0800 328 5644 (textphone 0800 328 1344). Or alternatively, complete and print out the ESA1 form and send it to your local Jobcentre Plus office.

When making your claim you’ll need to provide some basic information, financial details and a fit note (also known as a sick note or doctor’s note). You’ll then be invited to attend the Work Capability Assessment to see how much your condition affects your ability to work.

Remember to make sure your answers are honest and accurate, and if you need help to complete the form, contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or Age UK.

How to challenge a decision

If you’re unhappy about a decision on your ESA claim you can challenge it, but it’s important to follow the correct process and act quickly. You can ask for a mandatory reconsideration to review your case, but it’s best to request this within a month of the date of your decision.

If you then don’t agree with the mandatory reconsideration notice you can appeal to a tribunal, and once again you usually need to do this within one month.

Change of circumstances

If your circumstances change, remember to notify the ESA helpline on 0800 169 0310 (textphone 0800 169 0314), or write to the Jobcentre Plus office that pays your ESA, to avoid penalties or legal action. For example, a change to your employment status, your condition, or other money you may receive.

For more information on ESA and how to apply visit

Please note that this content was correct at time of publication (25.07.2018). From time to time, changes in regulation may impact the accuracy of the information provided.

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