What is Employment and Support Allowance?
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) provides financial help if you are unable to work because of illness or disability. It will also provide you with a personalised support if you are able to work.
What is the difference between contribution-based ESA and income-based ESA?
Contribution-based ESA - You may be entitled to claim contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance if you have paid enough National Insurance contributions.
Income-based ESA - You may be entitled to claim income-based Employment and Support Allowance if you do not have enough money coming in, or you have not paid enough National Insurance contributions. You will not be considered for income-based ESA unless you have savings of less than £16,000 and, if you have a partner or civil partner, they work for less than 24 hours a week on average.
What happens when you apply for ESA?
You will be sent a medical questionnaire to complete and return. The majority of claimants are asked to attend a Work Capability Assessment where their ability to carry out work related activities is assessed. The purpose of this assessment is to determine whether you are considered to have ‘limited capability for work’ or are found to be ‘fit for work’.
Please note, the same process applies when Incapacity Benefit claimants are being migrated.
What happens if you are considered to be ‘fit for work’?
Once you have been notified of the decision, you have one month in which to appeal. Late appeals will not be considered without good cause. If you are at all unsure, you should seek assistance from a local advice service (for example the Citizens Advice Bureau tel 0141 775 3220) and ask for a benefit check to make sure that you are receiving all of the benefits that you are entitled to.
What happens if you are considered to have ‘limited capability for work’?
You will now be paid ESA. The amount that you receive will depend on your circumstances. It will also depend on what effect your disability has on your ability to do any work. You will receive a basic amount based on your age and an additional amount (called a component) which will be dictated by the group that you are placed in. There are two types of component groups:
• Work related activity group: If you are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group, you will be expected to take part in work-focused interviews with a Department for Work and Pensions personal adviser. You will get support to help you prepare for suitable work. The aim of these interviews is to identify possible training needs and current or future work opportunities.
• Support group: If your illness or disability has a severe effect on your ability to work, you won’t be expected to work. People placed in this group are generally severely disabled or terminally ill. Being placed in this group exempts you from taking part in work-focused interviews, work-related activity or condition management.
Please note, if your Incapacity Benefit was greater than the amount you are due after being assessed for ESA, you will continue to receive the amount that you have been receiving until the rate of ESA has come in line with this.
Is there a time limit in the receipt of ESA?
From 1 May 2012, if you are in receipt of contribution-based ESA, you will be limited to receive this benefit for a maximum of 365 days. After this period you can apply for income-based ESA, which is means tested. This change in legislation is retrospective, which means that your year of eligibility will be measured from when you first started to receive it. The only exception to this is claimants in receipt of the support component who will not be time limited.
What should you do if your ESA is about to be stopped?
Contact the Citizens Advice Bureau who will carry out a full benefit check and talk through your options with you.
For more information on Employment and Support Allowance contact the Citizens Advice Bureau on 0141 775 3220.