Your guide to care and support

Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people whose ability to work is limited by the effects of ill health or disability.

ESA is just one of the benefits you may be eligible for if you are of working age and have a disability or long-term condition that limits your ability to work. You can claim it using the ESA claim form.

There are two types of ESA:

  • Contributory ESA is payable if you've paid enough National Insurance contributions in a set period. 
  • Income-related ESA is a top-up benefit that can be paid on top of contributory ESA, or if your income is too low. The amount of capital you have may affect the amount of income-related ESA you receive.

Find out more about contributory and income-related ESA at GOV.UK – What ESA you'll get.

When you'll receive ESA

You will only receive ESA if you are deemed to have limited capability for work. During the first 13 weeks of your claim, you’ll have a Work Capability Assessment. This assessment decides if you have limited capability for work and can qualify for ESA, or if you should claim Jobseeker's Allowance, or another appropriate benefit.

For more details see GOV.UK: How to claim ESA.

The ESA scheme pays you a benefit while you're unable to work. Unless the effects of your illness or disability are severe, you'll be expected to go back to work at a future date. You will be offered help to cope with the difficulties caused by your illness or disability that prevent you from working.

If you receive income-related ESA, you are entitled to other financial help, such as free NHS dental treatment, sight tests, prescriptions and housing grants.

Work-focused interviews for ESA

As part of your ESA claim, you may be required to attend work-focused interviews. This will depend on the outcome of your Work Capability Assessment.

You won’t be required to attend a work-focused interview if you’re placed in the ESA support group, or if you’ve reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit. You can find out your qualifying age for Pension Credit on GOV.UK.

You can ask for a work-focused interview to be put off (deferred) to another date if the initial time doesn't suit you. For example, if you're a full-time carer, an interview can be deferred if it clashes with your caring responsibilities. 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.

You can ask for a work-focused interview to take place in your home if attending one elsewhere would cause you great difficulty.

If a work-focused interview is not deferred but you can't attend it (for example, if care arrangements fall through), you must tell Jobcentre Plus your reasons within five working days of being notified that you failed to attend the interview. Your ESA won't be subject to sanctions in this situation.

At a work-focused interview, your circumstances will be taken into account when discussing what work-related activity, if any, is appropriate for you.

If a decision is made to reduce your benefit because you did not attend a work-focused interview, you have the right to appeal, after asking for the decision to be looked at again first. See GOV.UK: How to appeal for more information.

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

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2015

Next review due: 15/01/2017


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