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Employment and Support Allowance changes

A change in your circumstances could mean that the amount of ESA you're entitled to changes, or that you're no longer entitled to ESA. If something happens that could affect your benefit, it's important to report this straight away. Let Jobcentre Plus know if:

  • there's a change in your medical condition
  • you or your partner start work or voluntary work, or become self-employed
  • you or your partner start a training course
  • you or your partner start getting another benefit, pension or allowance (such as statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay, statutory adoption pay or statutory sick pay)
  • you or your partner stop getting another benefit, pension or allowance
  • there's a change in your savings or other capital
  • you start living with someone, or someone moves into or leaves your home
  • you change your address
  • you get married or form a civil partnership
  • you get divorced, break up a civil partnership or separate
  • you're involved in a trade dispute
  • you go into or leave hospital (see hospital stays, below)
  • you go into or leave prison or legal custody
  • you or your partner go away from home or go abroad
  • your partner dies

Tell the office that usually deals with your claim, in writing or by phone. If you report a change in writing, keep a copy of what you've written. If you report it by phone, keep a record of the date and time of your call and the full name of the person you speak to. If you're unsure whether or not a change will affect your ESA, it's best to report it.

If you don't report a change early enough, you could be seen as having failed to disclose a material fact about your situation, and if you provide information that is inaccurate, this could be seen as misrepresentation of your situation. This could mean that if you're paid too much benefit, you'll have to pay it back.

If, however, you're paid too much but you've done all you can to prevent this happening and Jobcentre Plus has made a mistake, you may not have to pay the money back. For more information, see the sections on overpayments and official errors in ESA challenges.

If the change increases what you get (for example, your income has gone down or you qualify for additional premiums in your benefit), don’t delay in reporting it or you may lose money because your benefit may not be increased from the date that the change happened.

The government's official online source of information on benefits is GOV.UK.

Click on the bars below for more detailed information on making changes to an Employment and Support Allowance claim.

Hospital stays

If you're in hospital as an inpatient, this may affect the amount of ESA you get. You'll be counted as an inpatient if your treatment is funded by the NHS and:

  • you're in a hospital (including NHS hospitals, armed forces hospitals and special hospitals, but not prison medical wings)
  • you're in a similar institution (which could be a care home, a hospice or a rehabilitation unit that provides medical care)

You won't be counted as an inpatient if:

  • you're a private patient
  • you're meeting the cost of your treatment in a private hospital
  • your placement was arranged by a local authority (even with some NHS contribution to the costs of nursing care)

If you go into hospital as an inpatient, you must report this to Jobcentre Plus, however long your stay in hospital may be. You can continue to get contributory ESA while you're in hospital, however long this may be. You can also continue to be paid income-related ESA indefinitely if you go into hospital.

However, if you were getting the severe disability or carer premium as part of your income-related ESA, you'll only be able to keep getting this for a limited time while you're in hospital. This is because the benefits that help you to qualify for these premiums are withdrawn after you've been in hospital for a certain time (Disability Living Allowance after four weeks and Carer’s Allowance after 12 weeks). The enhanced disability premium, however, can continue to be paid for 52 weeks of a hospital stay. If you receive housing costs, these may no longer be payable after 52 weeks.

If you're in a care home and you have moderate nursing needs, the NHS should assess your case to decide if you qualify for NHS help with your accommodation costs. For advice, contact an organisation such as Carers UK or the Citizens Advice Bureau, or call the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053.

If you're a patient detained under section 45A or section 47 of the Mental Health Act, you're not entitled to benefits.

Care home stays

Your benefits may be affected by a stay in a care home. This depends on whether you're there for a temporary or a permanent stay. You might be in a care home for a trial period to see if you would like to stay there.

Care homes may include independent hospitals. Find out more about types of care home and what they do.

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance

You can continue to get contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) while residing in a care home, either temporarily or permanently.

Income-related ESA if you're staying in a care home permanently

You can continue to get income-related ESA when you're residing in a care home, but the amount you're paid can change. If you're getting the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), this may stop being paid after a period of time (depending on the funding for your care). This will mean that any severe disability premium or enhanced disability premium included in your income-related ESA will stop. This will reduce the amount of ESA you get, and your income-related ESA may stop if your income is now higher than your applicable amount.

Unless you're funding your own stay, your benefits will usually go towards the costs of being in the home. You'll be left with a personal allowance of £22.30 a week. If you enter a care home permanently, your income-related ESA claim may be treated differently if:

  • You're in a couple. When you become a permanent resident, you're treated as a single person. This means that you and your partner will need to make claims as single people. Your applicable amount will be lower, but your capital and income will be counted separately.
  • You were refused income-related ESA before going into care because you had too much capital. You may now be entitled to income-related ESA when entering a care home permanently because the lower capital limit is higher in this situation. Instead of assuming a tariff income from capital above £6,000, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will only assume an income from capital above £10,000. If you were already getting income-related ESA, you may be entitled to more because of this difference in the lower capital limit.
  • You own your home. If you're a permanent resident in a care home and don't intend to return home, your house will be treated as capital (which may mean you're no longer entitled to income-related ESA). This is not the case if it's occupied as a home by your partner (but not if you're estranged or divorced, unless they're a lone parent) or a relative who is over 60 or incapacitated. If you're trying to sell the property, its value is ignored for 26 weeks, or for longer if it's reasonable in the circumstances.

Income-related ESA if you're staying in a care home temporarily

If you go into a care home temporarily and you're in a couple, you and your partner will be assessed for income-related ESA as a couple. Unless you're both in the same room of the same home, you'll each be given the single person’s personal allowance if this adds up to more than the couple rate.

Study

If you're in full-time education, you may not be able to claim contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for young people or income-related ESA. However, the rules about studying and claiming ESA are different for the two different types of ESA.

Education includes attending an ordinary school or college, a sixth-form college, a special school or training centre designed specifically for people with disabilities, or home tuition arranged by the Local Education Authority.

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance

You count as a full-time student if you're at school or in other education for more than 21 hours a week. These hours don't include teaching that is specifically designed for students with disabilities and that isn't suitable for other students.

What counts and what doesn't depends on teaching methods and the nature of the course. If you're on a course with other students who aren't disabled, some of your learning hours may not count, for example if you need additional tuition, more time to take the full course due to your disability or tuition that would normally suit a younger age group.

From (and including) your 19th birthday, you're not counted as being in full-time education.

Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

You can't normally get income-related ESA if you're in full-time education. However, if you get either component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), you'll be able to study and claim ESA.

If you're 16-18 years old, you can't normally get income-related ESA until your formal school-leaving date. You can't then claim until the date that Child Benefit ceases to be payable for you. You'll be regarded as in full-time education until the last day of your course, or until you abandon the course or are dismissed from it.

If you're under 19 but you're not a qualifying young person under the Child Benefit rules, you're not treated as being in full-time education if the course of study is not a course leading to a first degree or postgraduate degree (or comparable qualifications), a higher education or higher national diploma, or any other course of a standard above advanced GNVQ or equivalent.

Full-time or part-time course?

If your course is government funded and in England or Wales, it counts as full-time if you have more than 16 guided learning hours a week. In Scotland, your course is full time if structured learning packages take the hours over 16 a week.

Otherwise, whether you're in full-time education depends on how your course is classed by the institution at which you're studying.

Due to the complexity of the rules, you may wish to seek advice on whether you're entitled to ESA, about other financial help that you may be able to get as a student, or about benefits that a parent or guardian may be able to claim for you. For advice, contact an organisation such as Carers UK, Citizens Advice Bureau or call the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053. You can also find support by contacting an organisation on the Carers Direct directory of local carers' support.

Work

If you work during your Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claim, you could lose benefit unless the work is specifically allowed. If you do work that isn't allowed, you're not entitled to ESA during any week in which you work.

If you have a partner and you're claiming income-related ESA, you'll lose benefit if they work 24 hours or more a week.

You can claim ESA and do some types of work such as being a councillor or foster carer, doing domestic tasks in your home or caring for a relative. You can do voluntary work, but you must receive no payment other than your reasonable expenses. If you're paid more than your expenses or Jobcentre Plus thinks that the job should really be paid work, this will affect your ESA claim.

You can do self-employed work with the agreement of Jobcentre Plus under the test-trading scheme. If you're on a placement that was agreed by Jobcentre Plus before ESA was introduced, you may continue on this.

Some other types of work are allowed and these are known as permitted or exempt work.

Permitted work

It's also possible to keep your ESA while doing some part-time work, called permitted work. There are various forms of permitted work, but generally you may only work less than 16 hours a week and you can't earn more than £93 a week.

You can do some part-time work and keep your ESA, as long as you earn £20 a week or less. There is no time limit on doing this work. However, the number of hours you can work in a week is effectively limited by the minimum wage.

You can work for less than 16 hours a week, earning up to £93 a week for up to a year. If you do this, you must stop working after 52 weeks and you can't take this option again until either another 52 weeks have passed or there has been a break in your ESA claim of more than 12 weeks. If you're in the support group, you can earn up to £93 a week for under 16 hours a week for an unlimited time.

Supported permitted work

You can do work of any kind, without a time limit, as long as your earnings don't exceed £93 a week, if the work is:

  • part of a treatment programme under medical supervision while you're in hospital or a similar institution or regularly attending hospital (or a similar institution) as an outpatient
  • supervised by someone employed to help people with disabilities back into work

Effect on other benefits

If you get income-related ESA, you can do permitted work earning up to £93 a week and you'll still get extra help such as full Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

If you only get contributory ESA, both your ESA and your earned income will be taken into account when your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit are worked out. You may want to get advice to find out how work will affect your other benefit claims.

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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2013

Next review due: 19/08/2015

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