Skip to content

Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) gives money to people who have difficulty working, because of illness or disability, or support to get back into work if they‘re able to.

You can apply for ESA if you are unemployed, employed or self-employed. Depending on your circumstances, you will either receive money to help with the costs of living if you’re unable to work or you will receive support to get back into work. 

Eligibility criteria for ESA

To claim ESA, you must: 

  • Have a limited capability for work (tested by the Work Capability Assessment) 
  • Be aged 16 or over 
  • Be under State Pension age 
  • Have been employed or self-employed 
  • Paid enough National Insurance contributions, usually in the last two to three years 

You cannot claim New Style ESA if you receive Statutory Sick Pay or you’re claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). You may apply for New Style ESA up to three months before your Statutory Sick Pay ends. 

You may be able to claim Universal Credit at the same time, or instead of New Style ESA. If you can get both benefits, your Universal Credit payment will be reduced by the amount that you get for ESA. 

The difference between New Style ESA and Old Style ESA

Most people under State Pension age can claim New Style ESA. If you receive a Severe Disability Premium (SDP), you can apply for New Style ESA. 

Some people will still be getting the Old Style ESA, of which there are two types: ‘income-based ESA’ and ‘contribution-based ESA’.  

You can no longer make a new claim for contribution-based ESA, however if you currently receive it, you may be able to add income-based ESA to it. This means that you will get more money. 

How much will I get?

Whilst your claim is being assessed – which takes around 13 weeks – you will normally get the ‘assessment rate’. This is up to £67.20 a week if you’re aged under 25 and £84.80 a week if you’re aged 25 and over. 

Once you’ve been assessed and approved for ESA, you’ll be put in to one of two groups. If you can get back into work in the future, you will be in the work-related activity group and paid up to £84.80 a week. If it’s unlikely that you will be able to work in the future, you will be put into the support group and paid up to £129.50 a week. 

For more detailed information on what you’ll get paid, visit GOV.UK 

Can I claim whilst I’m employed?

You can usually work while claiming ESA as long as the following apply: 

  • You work less than 16 hours a week
  • You do not earn more than £167 a week

You can do as many voluntary hours as you wish. 

When you make a claim you should tell Jobcentre Plus about any work, including volunteering. 

How to apply for ESA

If you live in England, Scotland, or Wales, you can apply for ESA online on GOV.UK. If you cannot apply online, or you are applying for someone else, contact the Jobcentre Plus new claims helpline on 0800 055 6688. 

If you live in Northern Ireland, you can apply online for ESA on nidirect. 

To apply for ESA, you will need the following: 

  • Your National Insurance number 
  • Your bank or building society sort code and account number 
  • The name of your doctor, GP address and telephone number 
  • A fit note (or sick note)  
  • Details of your income (if you are working) 
  • If you’re claiming Statutory Sick Pay, the date that it ends (you can claim up to three months before the end date) 
What happens after you apply

The DWP will contact you within 10 days of applying. If you are eligible, you will be asked to attend an appointment, normally a telephone call, with a work coach from Jobcentre Plus.  

During your appointment, they will explain to you what you need to do to get New Style ESA and create an agreement called a ‘Claimant Commitment’.  

You will be asked questions about how your condition affects your ability to work, and to provide medical evidence. You may have to have a medical assessment, called a ‘work capability assessment,’ which is carried out by a healthcare professional from the Health Assessment Advisory Service who works on behalf of the DWP.  

If your claim is successful, you may need to fill in an ESA50 form, also called the ‘capability to work’ questionnaire. There is useful information on how to fill out this form on the Citizens Advice website. 

Getting a ‘work capability assessment’

Once you have sent the ESA50 form, you will need to go for a medical assessment to explain how your disability makes it difficult to work. This is also called a ‘work capability assessment’.  

You will be invited to an assessment with a healthcare professional, working on behalf of the DWP. They will go through what you have said on your questionnaire and see how well you can perform work-related tasks. Take a copy of your questionnaire with you so that you can see what answers you gave.  

The questions they may ask include your ability: 

  •  To move around by yourself  
  •  To move from a standing to a sitting position 
  •  To pick up or move items 
  •  To make yourself understood 
  •  To use your hands (your manual dexterity) 

If you have any difficulties in performing these tasks during the assessment, make it known as this information will be used to decide which group you go into – the work-related activity group or the support group. 

Give as much detail as possible, including your ability or inability to do the above tasks unaided, repeatedly and without severe discomfort. 

The decision

After your assessment, you will receive a letter from the DWP with their decision, which will be one of the following: 

  • Receive ESA and be in the ‘work-related activity group’ 
  • Receive ESA and be in the ‘support group’ 
  • Stop receiving ESA as they deem you to be capable of working  

If you are in the ‘work-related activity’ group, you must attend regular interviews with a work coach to receive ESA. If you are in the ‘support group’ you do not need to go to interviews to receive ESA.  

We’re here to support you

Our support services

Webinars, Information Days, and support groups for our muscle wasting community. Our life-changing support is here for you.

Call our helpline

Advice for living with or caring for someone with a muscle wasting condition.

Stay connected with our community

Get the latest news, inspiring stories, upcoming events, and valuable support services delivered straight to your inbox.