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Employment and Support Allowance Changes

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a means tested benefit for people whose ability to work is either limited by ill-health or disability.

Find out more information on ESA.

To make a claim for ESA you just need a medical certificate and the claim can be made over the telephone (0800 055 6688), or you can download a form here.

Once you claim you enter a 13 week assessment phase where you are paid a basic rate; this is up to £73.10 a week (£57.90 if you are under £25 or £114.85 if you are a couple). Sometimes the assessment phase lasts more than 13 weeks if there is a delay in your assessment being completed.

Usually you will be required to complete a Limited Capability for Work Questionnaire or ESA50. The ESA50 asks about the effects any physical or mental health problems have on a range of activities.  It's important that the form is completed as thoroughly as possible.

Where do I go for help? 
Detailed information on completing the Limited Capability for Work Questionnaire is here..  If you would like assistance in completing the form then please contact one of our Welfare Reform Team.

Similarly, if you have been turned down for ESA, or put in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) when you think you should be in the Support Group, and you need help with a Mandatory Reconsideration or appeal then contact one of our Welfare Reform Team.

You will usually be required to attend a Work Capability Assessment (WCA).  The WCA has two parts, firstly the "limited capability for work asessment", this determines if you are eligible for ESA.  This is a points based assessment with points awarded for any limitations you have carrying out the activities covered by the ESA50.  You must score 15 points to be assessed as having a limited capability for work and be eligible for ESA otherwise you are not eligible.  The points system is shown here..

If you are eligible then you will be placed in one of two claimant groups; the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) or Support Group.  There is another assessment to determine which group you will be placed in; called the 'limited capability for work-related activity' assessment.  

The two groups receive different amounts of benefit and if you are placed in the WRAG you are required to undertake work related activity, such as work-focused interviews. 

After your WCA you will receive a decision letter telling you if you have received ESA and if so which group you will be placed in.  What to do if you are not happy with the decision?

Some top tips from our Welfare Benefit Specialist Louise:

  1. When completing the ESA50 remember to think about how you are able to complete the activities and include as much detail as possible even if you find it embarrassing.  When answering always think if you can complete the activities repeatedly, reliably and safely.
  2. If possible always obtain medical evidence to support you conditions from your GP or other medical specialist.

  3. When you receive the ESA50 request any medical evidence you need as soon as possible; you only have 4 weeks to fill the form in once it's arrived, and medical professionals can take that long just to return the evidence you will need.

  4. Always take a copy of your ESA50 and any medical evidence you have submitted with it; it is useful to be able to look at it again before the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and to take to the WCA itself to ensure that the assessor covers everything they should.

  5. It's essential you attend your WCA; if you don't then the DWP may assume that you're fit for work and stop your claim.

  6. When you attend the WCA remember to take any medication you are on with you and also any aids and appliances that you use like a hearing aid or walking stick.

  7. Don't feel you have to do things at the WCA that you wouldn't normally be able to do; for example if you can't sit comfortably for more than a few minutes at a time then don't sit there getting more and more uncomfortable, the assessor may think you can always do it.

What changes are being made to ESA?

Removal of Work Related Activity Group premium

If you claim from 3rd April 2017 and you are placed in the WRAG, you will only receive the basic level that those in the assessment phase receive.  This does not affect you if your claim started before this date.

Weekly rates (for those 25 or over)
 Claim begun before 6th April 2017Claim begun on or after 6th April 2017
WRAG Up to £102.05 (£29.05 plus basic rate of £73.10)Up to Basic rate of £73.10 
Support GroupUp to £109.30 (£36.20 plus basic rate of £73.10)Up to £109.30 (£36.20 plus basic rate of £73.10)

This change won't affect:

  • Existing ESA claimants who have a further WCA after 3rd April 2017 even if they are placed in the WRAG.

  • Claimants who have a break in their claim and are back on ESA within 12 weeks and their original claim was before 3rd April 2007.

  • Those who claimed before 3rd April 2017 but are awaiting a Mandatory Reconsideration or appeal decision. 

Find out more information on these changes.

Removal of Permitted Work Limit

From 3 April 2017, if you under take undertake 'permitted work' and earn between £20 and £115.20 per week you will no longer have to give up work or stop claiming ESA after 52 weeks.