Employment and Support Allowance information

Structure of Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced in October 2008. It has replaced income support and incapacity benefit if you are unable to work due to illness. If you already get incapacity benefit or income support you will stay on these benefits until you transfer to ESA. This is expected to happen between October 2010 and 2013.

If you are completing a medical questionnaire (called an ESA50), going to a medical or you want to challenge a decision that you are not entitled to ESA, then our guide to the limited capability for work assessment, available to download at the bottom of this page, will help you to understand more about what is involved. You can also order a copy of the guide from us.

Summary of Employment and Support Allowance

There are two different types of Employment and Support Allowance. Contributory ESA which replaces incapacity benefit and income-related ESA which replaces income support. You may get one or both types of ESA depending on your circumstances.

For the first thirteen weeks of your claim you will be paid a basic rate of ESA and you will go through the work capability assessment. This is the medical test that will decide whether or not you are entitled to ESA.

If the DWP decide that you have limited capability for work then you will be placed in the work-related activity group and get a work-related activity component paid on top of the basic rate. You will have to go to a series of work-focused interviews with a personal adviser. If you do not go to the interviews then your ESA can be sanctioned.

If the DWP decide that you have limited capability for work-related activity then you will be placed in the support group and get a support component paid on top of the basic rate. You will not have to attend work-focused interviews.

Employment and Support Allowance glossary

Contributory ESA

Paid if you have worked and paid enough national insurance contributions. You can also get this if you claim before you are 20 (or 25 if you have been in education). The qualifying rules are very similar to incapacity benefit.

Income-related ESA

Paid if you (and your partner) have no income or your income and savings are very low. The qualifying rules are very similar to income support.

Assessment phase

This is the first thirteen weeks of your ESA claim. During this time you will go through the work capability assessment and attend your first work-focused interview.

Basic rate

This is paid at the same rate as jobseeker's allowance personal allowances. 16 to 24 year olds get the lower rate only during the assessment phase.

Work capability assessment

This is the new medical test which decides whether or not you can stay on ESA and whether you should get the work-related activity component or the support component.

Limited capability for work

This is the assessment to decide whether you should be in the work-related activity group. You have to attend a face to face medical and score at least 15 points on a test of physical and mental activities to prove that you have limited capability for work.

Limited capability for work related activity

This is the assessment to decide whether you should be in the support group. It means that because of your illness or disability it is not reasonable to expect you to do work-related activities or to return to work.

Work related activity component

This is paid to you if you have limited capability for work. You must attend work-focused interviews and make a plan of activities to help you return to work.

Support component

This is paid to you if you have limited capability for work related activity. It is a higher amount than the work-related activity component and you do not have to go to work-focused interviews.

Work focused interview

This is a compulsory interview with a personal adviser at your local Jobcentre plus office to look at how you can be supported back to work.You will usually have to attend at monthly intervals for five months.

Sanctions

Your work-related activity component can be reduced or stopped if you do not participate in work focused health related assessments or work focused interviews without giving a good reason within five days.

You can keep up with developments on the implementation of ESA on the internet.

Downloadable documents

If you are unable to view documents of these types, our downloads page provides links to viewing software.

This page was last updated on 4 February 2011

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