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Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Being unable to work because of an illness or disability can be stressful, and that’s not to mention the additional money worries. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) could help you if you find yourself in this situation.

What is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

ESA is a benefit that could give you some money if you have an illness or disability that affects your ability to work.

There are two types of ESA:

  • contribution-based ESA – you can get this if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions
  • income-related ESA – you can get this if you’re on a low income, either on its own or in addition to contribution-based ESA

How much money could I get?

Every claim for ESA is assessed and this process usually takes 13 weeks. While your claim is being assessed, you’ll receive £73.10 a week for 13 weeks.

If the outcome of your claim is that you’re eligible for ESA, you’ll be put into a group, which will affect how much ESA you continue to receive. You may be put in to either:

  • the work-related activity group: This is for people who will prepare to return to work and will get some support to do that.
  • the support group: This is for people who are unable to return to work due to their illness or disability.

Depending on which group you’re placed in you’ll receive contribution-based ESA:

  • up to £73.10 a week for up to one year if you’re in the work-related activity group (you may get more than this if you made your claim before April 2017).
  • up to £110.75 a week if you’re in the support group (there’s no time limit on how long you receive this).

Contribution-based ESA is based on National Insurance contributions and is taxable. It may be reduced if you have a private pension or you’re claiming other benefits. You might also be eligible for income-related ESA that can give you extra amounts depending on your circumstances, such as your age or if you care for someone.  Income-related ESA isn’t taxable.

Am I eligible to claim ESA?

To claim either contribution-based or income-related ESA you need to:

  • be under State Pension age
  • have an illness or disability that affects your ability to work.not be claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support or Statutory Sick Pay

To be eligible to claim income-related ESA, you also need to:

  • have no income or a low income
  • not be claiming Universal Credit or have savings of more than £16,000.

There is no need for you to have paid National Insurance contributions.If you receive income-related ESA, you may also quality for other benefits such as Housing benefit, Council Tax Support and help with health costs.

How can I claim Employment and Support Allowance?

  1. To claim ESA call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888). They’ll ask you questions over the phone and fill in the form for you. Alternatively, you can download a claim form from GOV.UK You’ll need to include a medical certificate from your GP and provide your GP contact details.
  2. Contact your local Age UK for advice on making a claim if you’re not sure and need extra help.
  3. After you apply you’ll be invited to attend a medical assessment called a 'work capability assessment' and fill in a 'limited capacity for work' questionnaire that looks at how your illness or disability affects what you do. After this you’ll be told whether you’re entitled to ESA.
  4. If you’re entitled to ESA, you’ll be placed in the ‘work-related activity group’ or the ‘support group’.

What do I do next?

Contact your local Age UK for advice


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What benefits can you claim?

Do you know what benefits you are entitled to? Age UK's Benefits Calculator can help you, quickly and easily, to find out what you could be claiming.


Last updated: Mar 18 2019

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