How to Apply for ESA

Call the ESA helpline on 0843 596 3686 if you’re eligible to apply for Employment Support Allowance and unable to work.

ESA, or Employment Support Allowance, is a government benefit to help people who are not able to work due to illness or disability. Or if they do want to work, ESA can help them with getting work if they are able to. If you are eligible for the new benefit Universal Credit, then you might not be able to claim ESA. You can apply for ESA whether you are working or not. This is a guide on how to apply for Employment Support Allowance.

Check Eligibility for Types of ESA

There are now three types of ESA, with the addition of “New Style” ESA. The older two types are contribution-based ESA and income-based ESA. Your personal circumstances will determine which type of ESA you can apply for. To get any type of ESA, you must have an illness or a disability which negatively affects your ability to work. You will only be eligible for the older types of ESA if you currently receive the severe disability premium, or received it within the last month and are still eligible for it.

If you have been in employment and been paying National Insurance contributions within the last 2 to 3 years, then you will be eligible for contribution-based ESA. For income-based ESA, your National Insurance contributions do not affect your eligibility. The “New Style” ESA relies on your National Insurance contributions and credits as well. However, you don’t need to be receiving the severe disability premium to get new-style ESA. You may be able to get Universal Credit at the same time or instead.

How to Apply for ESA

To apply for new-style ESA, you need to submit a claim form. You can download and print one off yourself, or get one from your Jobcentre. Otherwise, you can call 0843 596 3686 to ask them to send you a form by post, or make a new claim appointment. You can make an appointment at your local Jobcentre and bring the claim form, a doctor’s note, proof of your ID and address, and proof of any pension or health insurance payments you receive. They will then go through your claim with you.

When applying for income-based or contribution-based ESA, there is a different claim form. Again, you can download and print it yourself and send it by post or hand it in at a Jobcentre. Or you can call 0843 596 3686 to request a copy of the form in the post. To complete the form you will need your National Insurance number, contact details for your GP, your own contact details, employment information, income and bank details, and a doctor’s note. You may also need your council tax bill and details about your mortgage or your landlord if applying for income-based ESA.

ESA Work Capability Assessment

If your initial ESA claim is successful, you will have to undergo a Work Capability Assessment. This appointment will determine how much your illness or disability does affect your ability to work. The results will then determine whether you can get ESA or not, and if so which group you’ll be in. There are two different groups for those who are entitled to ESA.

Claimants in the “work-related activity” group must attend interviews with an adviser regularly to help with work goals. In the support group, claimants do not have to attend interviews because of severe limitations on their ability to work. They can still speak to a personal adviser if they want to. In the work-related activity group, an ESA claim will last for 365 days for the new-style ESA and contribution-based ESA. There is no time limit on ESA claims when in the support group or for income-based ESA.

How Much ESA Will You Get?

The amount of ESA you will receive depends on several factors. These are your income, the type of ESA you are eligible for, and your current stage of the assessment process. For the first 13 weeks after claiming, you will receive the assessment rate of ESA. This will be up to £57.90 per week if you are under 25 years old, or up to £73.10 per week if you are over 25. Once you receive your group placement, the rate will change. You will get up to £73.10 per week in the work-related activity group or up to £110.75 per week for the support group. If you receive income-based ESA and you’re in the support group, you could get an enhanced disability premium. This would be £16.40 or £23.55 per week. There is also a severe disability premium, which is £64.30 or £128.60 per week.

Sanctions for ESA Claims

If you do not attend appointments or complete activities in agreement with your ESA adviser, then you could receive a reduction in your ESA payments. You can only receive sanctions if you are in the work-related activity group. You can challenge a sanction if you have a good reason for missing an interview or failing to do something. If you do receive a sanction, you may be able to claim a hardship payment to help you cover living costs. Remember to report any changes in your circumstances as soon as possible. You may have to pay a penalty of £50 or repay benefit overpayments if your eligibility changes and you don’t report it quickly.