Employment and Support Allowance

Thu, 20/09/2012 - 18:13 -- nick

What is Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is for people who:

  • can't work because of sickness or disability, and
  • aren't getting Statutory Sick Pay.

There are two types of ESA:

  • contributory ESA, which you can get if you have paid enough national insurance contributions
  • income-related ESA which is paid if your income and capital are low enough.

You may be able to get both contributory ESA and income-related ESA, depending on your circumstances. For both types of ESA, you will usually have to have various tests to confirm that you have limited capability for work.

In some circumstances, you can only get contributory ESA for up to 365 days.

For most new claims, ESA replaces Incapacity Benefit and also Income Support for people getting it because they can't work due to sickness or disability. If you are already getting Incapacity Benefit or Income Support because of sickness or disability, you can continue on that benefit, although your claim will be converted into ESA at some point.

For more information about Incapacity Benefit, see Benefits for people who are sick or disabled.

For more information about Income Support, see Help for people on a low income – Income Support.

ESA is paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and, in Northern Ireland, by the Social Security Agency.

Who can get Employment and Support Allowance

To get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you must be 16 or over and under your own state pension age.

For more information about state pension age, see Benefits for people who are over sixty.

You must be unable to work because of sickness or disability and you must not be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay.

For more information about Statutory Sick Pay, see Benefits for people who are sick or disabled.

To check when you will reach state pension age, see the pension age calculator on the Directgov website at www.direct.gov.uk.

To get ESA, most people will need to have a medical examination to decide if they have limited capability for work.

You can't get ESA if you or your partner are getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Pension Credit. You have to be ordinarily resident in the UK. For income-related ESA, you must not have any immigration controls on your stay here that would stop you getting the benefit.

For more information about immigration control, see Help with immigration problems.

You can continue to get ESA if you go into hospital.

Who can get contributory ESA

To qualify for contributory ESA, you have to have paid enough national insurance contributions. However, this doesn't apply if the DWP converts your Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance into contributory ESA.

If you're entitled to contributory ESA, you may also be entitled to income-related ESA depending on your circumstances.

In some circumstances, you can only get contributory ESA for up to 365 days. If your contributory ESA stops due to this time limit, you may be able to get:

  • income-related ESA, depending on your circumstances
  • other means-tested benefits, such as housing benefit or council tax benefit, or an increase in these benefits if you are already claiming them
  • national insurance credits if you continue to have limited capability for work. It is important to carry on getting national insurance credits if you can, because they may help you to qualify for other benefits such as state pension, or to get an increase in benefits such as housing benefit, or to requalify for ESA if your condition deteriorates.

For more information about national insurance contributions, see National insurance – contributions and benefits.

Income-related ESA

To get income-related ESA, your income will be compared with the amount that the government thinks is enough for you to live on.

If your income is less than this amount, you will get the difference between your income and the amount the government thinks is enough for you to live on, depending on your circumstances.

If your income is equal to or more than this amount, you won't get income-related ESA. You can't get any income-related ESA if you have savings of more than £16,000.

If you have a mortgage and qualify for income-related ESA, you may get help with some of your housing costs, for example, the interest due on the mortgage loan. If you pay rent, you should check if you can get Housing Benefit. If you get income-related ESA, you will get the maximum amount of Housing Benefit allowed for your circumstances.

For more information about Housing Benefit, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit.

If you get income-related ESA, it is not time limited. You can carry on getting it for as long as you meet the conditions for it.

Showing you have limited capability for work

To get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you usually have to prove you cannot work by sending in medical certificates to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

In the first 13 weeks of your claim, you will usually have to have two tests which, together, make up what is called the work capability assessment. These tests are:

Further information about the work capability assessment is on the Directgov website at www.direct.gov.uk.

In Northern Ireland, see the nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk.

The limited capability for work assessment

Most people will have a face-to-face medical assessment with a healthcare professional to decide if they satisfy the limited capability for work assessment. The medical assessment will look at your ability to perform a range of particular activities. It looks at both physical factors and mental health problems you may have that make you unfit for work. You can find out more about what to expect at a medical assessment on the Directgov website at www.direct.gov.uk.

In Northern Ireland, see the nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk.

If you do not satisfy the limited capability for work assessmen