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How much Employment and Support Allowance?

The amount of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) you receive will depend on whether your claim is in the initial assessment phase, which usually lasts for 13 weeks, or in the main phase that follows. Your circumstances, including your income and capital (such as your savings) will also be taken into account.

The amount you get will also depend on whether you receive contributory ESA alone or whether you also get a top-up of income-related ESA.

Contributory ESA and ESA for young people

In the 13-week assessment phase, you'll usually receive a basic allowance of ESA of:

  • £56.80 if you’re under 25
  • £71.70 if you’re 25 or over

In the main phase of ESA, if you've been accepted as having limited capability for work, you'll receive the basic allowance of £71.70 regardless of your age. You'll also get an additional component of:

  • £28.45 a week if you're in the work-related activity group
  • £34.80 a week if you’re in the support group

If you’re in the work-related activity group, you'll be required to attend work-related interviews (see ESA claims for more details). If you don’t do this, you may lose part of your additional £28.45. This is called being sanctioned. For more details about how sanctions can affect ESA, see the section on sanctions, below. 

If you’re in the support group, none of your ESA can be sanctioned.

Contributory ESA is not affected by most of your income or capital, or that of your partner. However, if you receive a personal pension or payment from the Pension Protection Fund, this will affect your ESA payment. In this case, half your pension income over £85 a week is taken from your ESA. This doesn’t apply to some pensions and payments that are paid in respect of military service.

If you serve as a local councillor, any councillors' allowance you receive in excess of £97.50 a week will affect your ESA. For every extra £1 of allowance, your ESA will be reduced by £1.

Income-related ESA

The amount of income-related ESA you get depends on a calculation that compares your existing income with the level of income the law says a person in your circumstances needs to live on. The amount the law says you need to live on is known as your applicable amount. 

If your income is less than your applicable amount, you'll receive a top-up of income-related ESA. If you have savings or other capital, this can affect your entitlement.

The starting point for working out your applicable amount is your personal allowance. This depends on your age and whether you're single or claiming for you and a partner. In the main phase of ESA, your personal allowance will also include an additional component of ESA based on whether you're in the work-related activity group or the support group.

Your applicable amount can also include premiums. These are awarded if, for example, you're disabled or a carer.

You may also qualify for a contribution towards the cost of interest on your mortgage, if you have one. 

Once your applicable amount has been worked out, your income and capital are considered and the amount of income-related ESA you'll receive is calculated.

If your income is too high for you to receive income-related ESA in the assessment phase, you may be able to claim in the main phase. This is because your applicable amount goes up when you move from the assessment phase to the main phase. This is called an advance award for income-related ESA. The information you give in your claim will tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that this is the case, and your claim for income-related ESA will be treated as starting with the main phase of your ESA.

Even if the amount of money you get is small, it's worth claiming income-related ESA as it entitles you to help with other costs, such as full help with Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction, free prescriptions, free school meals and other help.

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

Click on the bars below for more information on claiming Employment and Support Allowance.

Personal allowance

The personal allowance is the starting point for working out income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

You get one personal allowance, which is based on your age and whether or not you have a partner.

During the assessment phase of income-related ESA, some of the personal allowances for younger people are lower than they will be in the main phase. Because of this complication, you may wish to seek independent advice to check which personal allowance applies to you.

Assessment phase (weekly amounts)

  • single person under 25: £56.80
  • single person 25 or over: £71.70
  • lone parent under 18: £56.80
  • lone parent 18 or over: £71.70
  • couple, both under 18: £56.80
  • couple, both under 18, with a child: £85.80. This rate also applies if each partner would be eligible for income-related ESA if claiming as single people, or the claimant’s partner would be eligible for Income Support if they were claiming as single people or they are eligible for income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or severe hardship payments.
  • couple, claimant under 25, partner under 18: £56.80. This rate only applies if the partner is under 18 and wouldn't be eligible for either income-related ESA, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or severe hardship payments.
  • couple, both over 18: £112.55. This rate also includes couples where one partner is under 18 but would be eligible for either income-related ESA or Income Support if they were single, or is eligible for income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or severe hardship payments.

In the main phase, single people and lone parents are given the same personal allowance no matter what their age, but some younger couples may still receive a lower rate.

Main phase

  • single person (any age): £71.70
  • lone parent (any age): £71.70
  • couple, claimant 25 or over, partner under 18: £71.70. This rate only applies if the partner would not be eligible for income-related ESA, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or severe hardship payments.
  • couple, any age: £112.55

In the main phase of ESA, your personal allowance also includes the additional component of ESA. This is £28.45 if you're in the work-related activities group and £34.80 if you're in the support group. This ensures that income-related ESA reflects the difference between your basic ESA (and other income) and what the law says you need to live on.

The personal allowance might not be the full amount that the law says you need to live on. You can add any premiums and housing costs that apply to you.

Premiums

Premiums are extra amounts that you can add to your personal allowance if you qualify for them. Different premiums each have specific qualifying conditions, for example if you have a severe disability or if you're a carer.

Severe disability premium

The severe disability premium is £59.50 (or £119.00 for a couple if both partners qualify). 

If you’re single, you can receive this premium if all the following conditions apply: 

  • You receive the middle- or high-rate personal care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
  • You live alone (for example, you don’t have a partner living with you).
  • No one is paid Carer’s Allowance for looking after you. This means that it's possible for you to have a carer, but if they claim and get paid Carer’s Allowance, you will not be able to add the severe disability premium.  

Couples can receive this premium at the couples rate if both partners get the middle- or high-care rate component of DLA or Attendance Allowance (AA) and nobody is paid Carer’s Allowance for looking after you. 

If you’re in a couple, you can receive this premium at the single rate if either of the following conditions applies: 

  • You both receive AA or the middle- or high-rate care component of DLA, but one of you has a carer who receives Carer’s Allowance for looking after you.
  • One of you is on the middle- or high-rate care component of DLA or AA, and the other is registered blind, and no one gets Carer’s Allowance for looking after you.

In all these cases, you will lose the premium if a non-dependant member of your family (such as a grown-up son or daughter) is living with you. If someone pays you rent (a tenant or lodger) for living in your home, it doesn’t affect this premium, but any rent you receive affects your benefit (see the section on charitable and other income, below).

Enhanced disability premium

Enhanced disability premium of £15.15 for a single person or £23.45 for a couple can be added to the other premiums if you (or your partner) are under the qualifying age for Pension Credit and either of the following conditions applies: 

  • You get DLA at the highest rate for care needs. 
  • You're in the support group for ESA. 

A couple rate will be paid even if only one of you qualifies. If you're in a couple and you're eligible for this premium because one of you is in the support group for ESA, the person who is in the support group of income-related ESA must make the claim.

Once you (or your partner) reach the qualifying age for Pension Credit, you will be paid the pension premium instead. Find out your qualifying age for Pension Credit on the Directgov website.

Carer premium

A carer premium of £33.30 can be added if you receive Carer’s Allowance for looking after a disabled person. It's possible to get this premium if you care for your disabled partner.

It's also possible for both members of a couple to receive a carer premium if they meet the rules. They could even be each other’s carer.

In some cases, it's advisable for you to claim Carer’s Allowance even though you receive another benefit that overlaps, meaning you wouldn't get any money for being a carer (see Carer's Allowance for more information).

It may still be worth claiming Carer’s Allowance in this case because, although that benefit won't be payable, the claim will show that you're a carer, and you'll be able to get the carer premium in income-related ESA. This is called underlying entitlement.

Pensioner premiums

A pensioner premium is paid if you're single and you’ve reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit, or if you're a member of a couple and one of you has reached the qualifying age.

The rate of payment depends on your situation and which additional component of ESA you get: 

  • Single people with the work-related activity component receive £45.25.
  • Single people with the support group component receive £38.90.
  • Single people with no component receive £73.70.
  • Couples in which the claimant gets the work-related activity component receive £81.05.
  • Couples in which the claimant gets the support group component receive £74.70.
  • Couples with no component receive £109.50.

Housing costs

Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) can help with mortgage interest payments and some other similar housing costs. If you pay rent, you may be able to get Housing Benefit instead.

Help can be given with:

  • interest on your main mortgage
  • interest on secured loans for improvements and repairs (but only those approved by Jobcentre Plus)
  • some service charges (usually charges that are shared, not individual to you)
  • ground rent (if you're a leaseholder)

Help is only given on mortgage interest. If you're repaying capital on your mortgage or you have to pay an endowment insurance policy, you won't get help with these. You may also not be paid the interest rate that your lender is charging. The interest rate payable through income-related ESA is set by law.

Help is not usually available right away. You'll have to wait at least 13 weeks before entitlement to mortgage help is added to your claim. Help is also limited to the first £200,000 of a mortgage.

If mortgage help is included in your income-related ESA, it will usually be paid straight to your mortgage lender, so it won't be included in the money you get.

You may also have your mortgage help reduced if a non-dependant is living in your home. This is someone who lives in your home but isn't part of your benefit claim and isn't a commercial tenant or lodger, such as a grown-up son or daughter. If a non-dependant lives with you, your mortgage help could be reduced by between £11.45 and £73.85 a week, depending on their age and how much they earn.

This reduction in mortgage help won't apply if you or your partner receive the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Attendance Allowance (AA) or if the non-dependant is under 25 and gets Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related ESA, or if they're an older relative who receives Pension Credit.

Because of the limits on mortgage help, you'll often find that it doesn't cover your full monthly mortgage payment and you'll either have to find the extra money yourself or seek help if you're struggling to pay. You can get more information and advice about this from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or welfare rights organisation, which you can find by searching our directory of local carers' services or by calling the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053.

If you move from ESA to work and you've been on benefit for over 26 weeks, tell Jobcentre Plus. The help you get with your mortgage will continue for a further four weeks.

The rules for housing costs were changed in January 2009. Some of the new arrangements are temporary and some claimants who were already getting help with housing costs under the old rules may continue to have their claims managed under those rules.

Income

Your income may affect the amount of income-related ESA you get. Income means the money you (and your partner) get from part-time work, benefits or other sources. If you have savings of more than £6,000, the DWP will assume you get income from these savings. This is called "tariff income" and is worked out in a standard way (see the section on Capital, below, for more details). Because of tariff income, any actual income you get from your savings won't count.

If you work while claiming income-related ESA, you must do so within the permitted work rules, and the maximum you can get is £95 a week. If you exceed this level, you won't be eligible for the benefit. 

If you do any other kind of work that is allowed, up to £20 a week of earnings will be disregarded. If your partner works part time (less than 24 hours a week), their income will affect your income-related ESA, but up to £20 of this may be disregarded.

Earnings from work

If you work, your net weekly wages (after tax, national insurance and half of any contribution to a personal or occupational pension) are taken into account as income.

If you're self-employed, your net profit after reasonable expenses is taken into account.

Income from benefits and pensions

Most benefits and pensions (including private and occupational pensions) count in full as income, with nothing disregarded. If not mentioned below, any benefits you receive count in full as income.

Statutory sick pay, statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay (or similar pay as part of your contract of employment) count as income in full, minus any deductions for tax, national insurance contributions and half of any contributions you make towards an occupational or personal pension.

The following benefits count as income, but with £10 disregarded:

  • Widowed Mother’s Allowance
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance
  • War Disablement Pension and certain other payments for disability or death in the armed forces 
  • pensions paid to victims of Nazi persecution

The following benefits don't count as income:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit
  • Social Fund payments
  • Mobility Supplement (under the war pensions scheme) and some other special war widows’ payments 
  • Christmas bonus

Charitable and other income (such as child maintenance) may be taken into account in full or in part, but some is ignored. See the section on Charitable and other income, below.

If you're a student, special rules apply to your income. Seek independent advice about how these affect you. Special rules also apply if your partner is under 18. You can get more information and advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or welfare rights organisation, which you can find by searching our directory of local carers' services or by calling the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053.

Charitable and other income

Payments from some charitable trusts (which pay money to victims of medical accidents, for example) are ignored. These include the:

Payments can still be disregarded even if you give them to relatives (or arrange that they inherit them after your death). If in doubt, seek advice to check when this applies.

Irregular charitable or voluntary payments (payments made without expectation of getting anything back) are usually treated as capital and should only be a problem if they put your capital above £6,000 (see tariff income, below) or £16,000. Regular charitable or voluntary payments are ignored as income.

Child Maintenance

Up to £20 a week of Child Maintenance can be ignored. The rest is taken into account as income. Special rules apply to other sorts of maintenance payments, so get help in dealing with these. You can get more information and advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or welfare rights organisation, which you can find by searching our directory of local carers' services or by calling the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053. You may also want to speak to a solicitor. You can find a solicitor through the Community Legal Advice website.

If you're liable to pay maintenance, you may still have to pay a small sum even if you're on income-related ESA.

Income from tenants and lodgers

If someone rents a room from you but you don't provide food for them, £20 of the rent you receive is ignored, but the rest counts as income.

If you rent a room out and provide food, the first £20 of this rent is ignored and half of the remainder counts as income.

Other examples

  • Education Maintenance Allowance is ignored as income.
  • Your reasonable expenses are ignored if you do voluntary work. If you're paid more than just your expenses, or Jobcentre Plus thinks your work is not really voluntary and should be paid, this could affect your benefit.
  • Extra help such as fares to hospital, payments to help with prison visits or payments instead of tokens for milk and vitamins are ignored as income.
  • There are special rules for dealing with the income of students.
  • If you receive income from a social services department, such as direct payments related to community care or under the Supporting People programme, these may be ignored. There are also rules covering adoption, fostering, guardianship and residence order payments. Seek further help to check which payments are ignored and which count as income for income-related ESA.

Capital

The amount of capital (such as savings) that you have may affect the amount of income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) you get. If you have too much capital, you can't receive income-related ESA.

If you have less than £6,000, this will affect your claim. If you have more than £16,000, you can't claim income-related ESA.

Capital includes most things you've saved up, such as money in the bank or building society, premium bonds, unit trusts, investments, stocks and shares. If you're in a couple, your joint savings will be counted.

If you own property, the value of this may count. The house you live in, even if you own it, doesn't count and nor do your personal possessions. If you've sold your home and you're going to buy another one, the sum you've set aside for this purpose won't count for six months. If you've had a personal injury and received compensation, this may not count as capital if your compensation award is in a trust (or you've received the money within the last 52 weeks).

The rules about what counts as capital can be complex. You can get more information and advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or welfare rights organisation, which you can find by searching our directory of local carers' services or by calling the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053.

Tariff income

If you have £6,000-16,000, you'll be assumed to have income from your capital even if you don't get any. This is known as tariff income. Tariff income assumes that you earn £1 a week for every £250 or part of £250 you have over £6,000.

Example

If you have £8,825 in savings, the first £6,000 is ignored for income-related ESA, but £2,825 will affect your claim. As £2,825 is more than 11 times £250, this would mean a tariff income rounded up to £12 a week. This is because you're over the £6,000 limit by 11 lots of £250 plus one part of £250.

Tariff income is added to your other income to help decide if you'll get income-related ESA. 

Reducing your capital

Beware of the temptation to get rid of money in order to get below the £6,000 or £16,000 savings limits. If you do, unless you have a good reason for spending the money, you may be treated as still having it. This is called notional capital and could result in you being refused benefit or receiving reduced benefit. Seek advice if you think you need to spend a lump sum of your savings or if Jobcentre Plus decides you have notional capital.

Receiving ESA payments

ESA will usually be paid by direct payment into a bank or building society account or Post Office card account. It's possible to be paid by cheque if you have great difficulty operating an account, for example if you can't remember a PIN.

If you're looking after a person with a disability, you can make arrangements to be their appointee. This means that you act on their behalf in relation to their claim and all matters about their benefit. If you do so, you need to ensure that changes of circumstances are correctly reported and any overpayment of benefit is avoided, as you have the same responsibility as the claimant. The person you're looking after and the Department for Work and Pensions have to agree to your being an appointee.

If you have any problems with your claim, see Challenging ESA decisions for more information.

Your date of claim

To get ESA, you must go through the claim procedure, which requires you to supply additional evidence. If you provide all the required evidence and information to Jobcentre Plus within one month, your date of claim for ESA will be the date at which you first made contact with Jobcentre Plus to express an interest in claiming. For example, this might be your initial telephone call to the call centre.

Waiting days

Your entitlement to ESA doesn't usually start until after the first three days of your claim. These three days are known as waiting days. You won't have to go through these waiting days if your ESA claim comes under the linking rules or within 12 weeks of the end of your entitlement to statutory sick pay, Income Support, Pension Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or Maternity Allowance.

You also won't have to go through the waiting days if:

  • you're terminally ill
  • you've been discharged from serving in the armed forces and you were sick for three or more days before your discharge
  • your partner is already getting income-related ESA and you've decided to become the claimant instead

How often will ESA be paid?

ESA is paid every two weeks in arrears, on a day of the week determined by the last two digits in your national insurance number. These are as follows:

  • 00 to 19: Monday
  • 20 to 39: Tuesday
  • 40 to 59: Wednesday
  • 60 to 79: Thursday
  • 80 to 99: Friday

It's possible to request a different arrangement if this is not convenient. To do so, you need to speak to Jobcentre Plus. However, you don't have a right of appeal against any decision they make on this matter.

If your ESA payment is less than £1 a week, you may be paid in arrears every quarter. Any ESA entitlement of less than 10p a week will not be paid.

Sanctions

If you’ve been placed in the work-related activity group for ESA and you haven’t yet reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit, you'll be required to attend work-focused interviews.

You can ask for a work-focused interview to be waived if you're likely to start or return to work soon. You can ask for it to be postponed if it wouldn't help you or be appropriate in the circumstances. Your circumstances will be considered and it may be agreed that you don't need to attend a work-focused interview for the time being.

If a decision-maker at Jobcentre Plus believes that you've failed to take part in a work-focused health-related assessment or work-focused interview, they will impose sanctions on your benefit. This means that part of your payment won't be made.

If you have good cause for not attending, you must tell Jobcentre Plus within five working days of the date that they tell you that you failed to attend. For more information about good cause, see below.

If sanctions are imposed, the reduction in your benefit will be:

  • 50% of the work-related activity component for the first four weeks
  • 100% of the work-related activity component after four weeks

If you get a combination of contributory and income-related ESA, the reduction applies to the contributory part first. If a reduction applies to income-related ESA, it could reduce the payment to the minimum of 10p a week, but won't go below this.

The sanctions can continue until you take part in the interview or assessment as required. If you're being sanctioned for more than one reason, the maximum reduction is the amount of the work-related activity component. The sanction will stop if your case is looked at again and you're placed in the support group, or you turn 60.

If you fail to attend the limited capability for work assessment without showing good cause, you'll be treated as not having limited capability for work and your ESA will stop.

If you disagree with the decision made on your benefit, you may want to challenge it.

Good cause

When considering whether you had good cause for not attending the limited capability for work assessment or a work-focused health-related assessment, the decision maker will consider your disability, your state of health at the time and whether you were outside Great Britain. They may also consider other reasons for not attending a work-focused health-related assessment.

Good cause for not attending a work-focused interview includes the following:

  • You didn’t understand that you had to attend because of learning difficulties, language or literacy difficulties, or because you were given misleading information by Jobcentre Plus.
  • You, or someone you care for, had to attend a medical or dental appointment that you couldn't reasonably rearrange.
  • You, or someone you care for, had an accident, sudden illness or a relapse of a physical or mental condition.
  • Your physical or mental condition made it impossible to attend the interview.
  • You had travel problems and no other reasonable way of getting there.
  • Your religious customs or practices prevented you from attending on that day or at that time.
  • You were attending the funeral of a relative or close friend.
  • You were attending a job interview or you were pursuing employment opportunities as a self-employed person.

Jobcentre Plus may take other reasons into account. They must generally involve circumstances in which you had no choice about whether or not to attend.

You must give your reasons to Jobcentre Plus within five working days of being notified that you failed to attend. If you later obtain some facts that show you had good cause, you can ask for a revision within one month of the decision to reduce your benefit, but you'll need to be able to show that you weren't able to provide those facts within the five-day time limit.

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Page last reviewed: 30/03/2012

Next review due: 30/03/2014

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