Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

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ESA otherwise known as Employment and Support Allowance was established on 27th October 2008. The ESA’s main objective was to replace the three main benefits of  Incapacity Benefit (IB), Income Support (IS) and Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA). In the early days ESA was designed to handle new claims, with a gradual transfer of existing claims.

In short, ESA provides (ill & disabled claimants):

  • Financial support if work is not possible
  • Personal assistance with work if employment is a possibility

Different types of ESA

ESA is divided into two main categories which are contributory and income-related sections, but what do these actually mean?


A duration of 1-year’s contributory ESA can usually be claimed if successful applicants meet National Insurance requirements. A 12-month benefit is commonplace for those receiving the ‘work-related’ component, however those who are in receipt of the ‘support component’ may get an indefinite reward.


ESAPre-established criteria and a specific ‘means test’ are both perquisites if claiming on an income-related basis. If both sets of measures are met, claimants can typically receive contributory ESA topped up with income-related ESA.

How much ESA will I receive? 

Following the first stage claim process you will usually receive 13-weeks at a rate of:

  • Up to £57.35 if aged under 25 years old
  • Those aged 25yrs + can receive up to £72.40 per week

Depending on which of the above categories you fall into the rate following week 13 would commonly be:

  • Up to £101.15 for those within ‘work-related activity groups’
  • Up to £108.15 for claimants in ‘support groups’

ESA payments tend to be paid directly into a claimants bank account – if due on a Bank Holiday, payments are usually made on the last working day before the holiday period.

How has Incapacity Benefit changed?

Government claims suggest that by replacing ‘Incapacity Benefit’, in particular the Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) with ‘Work Capability Assessment’ (WCA) there should be an easier evaluation of a person’s ability to work.

Medical assessments are undertaken by the Department of Work and Pensions contracted experts namely Atos Healthcare, part of the worldwide organisation Atos Origin. Despite the fact that a medical assessment in not always required, there are occasions when GPs and consultants may have to be contacted by a member of the medical investigation team.

More about Work Capability Assessment

Work Capability Assessment is as the name suggests, a way of determining an applicant’s ability to undertake work – ascertaining to what extent a disability or illness effects an individual’s employment opportunities.

employment-and-support-allowanceIf entitled to ESA, claimants will be placed into one of two categories which are as follows:

  1. Support Group – this typically means that no interview is necessary
  2. Work-Related Activity Group – this generally involves regular interviews with an adviser

Who can claim ESA?

Are you aware that you may be eligible to claim ESA if you are employed, unemployed or self-employed? Students in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment may also be able to make a claim.

Eligibility Criteria includes

There is various criteria in place when apply for ESA, however we have provided quick overview of general requirements. If your illness or disability effects your ability to work and you are:

  • Under State Pension Age
  • Not in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Are not getting Statutory Sick Pay or Statutory Maternity Allowance and have not yet returned to work
  • Working abroad may not necessary mean you cannot claim ESA, especially if enough National Insurance or equivalent EEA payments ( within a UK agreed country) have been made

How to make an ESA claim

The easiest way to make an ESA claim is over the phone, ESA helplines are open from 8am until 6pm on a Monday to Friday.

ESA moneyEssential information includes:

  • National Insurance number
  • Relevant medical certificates
  • GP contact details
  • Your contact details
  • Mortgage/landlord details
  • Council tax details
  • Employer’s address and telephone number and dates of employment or last day worked
  • Bank account details
  • Details of any other money you are getting, eg benefits or sick pay

Alternatively, you will need to download an ESA 1 form (via www.gov.uk) and present it at your local Jobcentre Plus Centre.

A little more about National Insurance…

As aforementioned, making adequate National Insurance contributions usually determines whether a claimant is eligible for ESA or not. But who generally has to pay National Insurance (NI)?

The general rule is that you pay National Insurance if you are 16 years of age or over, you are an employee earning at least £153 per week or if self-employed and have an annual profit of over £5.885 (without exemptions).

This site will explore, all elements of National Insurance including what to do if there is a shortfall in contributions.

ESA Benefit Sanctions

Nobody wants to lose their benefit entitlement, however if guidelines are not adhered to ESA sanctions can be put into place.

Possible sanctions can occur for various reasons such as the failure to keep established appointments. Such benefit withdrawals aren’t usually made without prior written notice and when in place, individual circumstances can often be addressed. In addition, it may be possible to apply for a Hardship Allowance – details of which can be found at your local Jobcentre Plus.

ESA Benefit Caps

As the name suggests, ESA benefit caps are an upper limit placed on specific benefits – these are generally dictated by the certain benefits being claimed and the amount of people living in a single household.

ESA overviewsFor example, typical amounts are currently stated as follows:

  • Couples (with or without children) = £500 per week
  • Single parents (children living with them) = £500
  • Single adults or single parents (children not living with them) = £350

Obviously these are general figures and it is advisable to contact the ESA Department or Jobcentre Plus Office directly to discuss your individual circumstances directly – ESA helplines are open from 8am until 6pm Monday to Friday.

Universal Credit – what is it exactly?

Those in low incomes or unable to work may be able to claim Universal Credit. As you are probably aware, Universal Credit is being gradually phased into the current benefit system – which is forecast to take some time.

If you are already in receipt of benefits and Universal Credit is due to be activated in your area, you will receive written notification.

Further details regarding Universal Credit can be found within this website, on the ESA’s site located at www.gov.uk or by calling the ESA helpline – available from 8am until 6pm on a Monday to Friday.

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