Employment and Support Allowance or ESA is a benefit available if you have an illness or disability that impacts your ability to work. When you are an employee, you can get Statutory Sick Pay in some cases or when you are first off work. Otherwise, you might need to call the ESA Contact Number for help and start the process of making a claim.
Types of ESA
Currently, there are two types of ESA available depending on your situation – contribution based and income related.
Contribution-based ESA is where you have paid enough National Insurance contributions during your time working. This can apply even if your partner works or if you have savings. This entitles you to one year’s worth of benefits that start when you join the work-related activity group.
Income-related ESA applied where you have not paid enough NI contributions. It has no time limit and can be paid for as long as you meet the qualifying criteria. It can also be used to top up contribution based ESA.
Making a claim
The start of the process of making a claim for ESA involves providing a medical certificate. You will then go into the assessment phase which usually lasts around 13 weeks or more. If you meet the work capability assessment rules, then you will receive ESA payments. Most of the time this will involve a face to face assessment to see if you meet the criteria, sometimes held in a local health centre. If you have certain conditions, then the health assessor may come to your home instead.
Once you have been assessed or treated as having limited capability for work, you will then move to the main phase ESA, usually around 13 weeks after starting the claim. This is when you get an extra component paid on top of your ESA with the amount depending on whether you are placed in the ‘work related activity group’ or the ‘support’ group. This is decided through the Work Capability Assessment.
Eligibility for contribution based ESA depends on how much you have paid in national insurance when working. Eligibility for income-related ESA depends on your income and capital.
How much is the payment?
At the time of writing, the payments are as follows.
For the first 13 weeks of your claim while you are going through the Work Capability Assessment, you will receive:
- £57.90 if you are under 25
- £73.10 if you are over 25
- £114.85 if you are a couple aged 18 (income-related ESA only)
Main phase payments
After the assessment, you move into the main phase payments. If you are placed in the work-related activity group, you will receive an extra component payment of £29.05 per week. This payment is being abolished for new claimants who make a claim after April 3rd, 2017 but doesn’t affect:
- Anyone who made a claim before this date
- Claimants in the support group
- Existing ESA claimants who have had a reassessment after 3rd April and have been placed in the WRAG group
- Incapacity Benefit reassessment cases that are awarded ESA
- Claims made from 3rd April that are backdated 3 months to a date before this
- Claimants who have had a break in claim and return to ESA within 12 weeks and their original claim date was before 3rd April
- Claimants who claimed ESA before 3rd April and their claim was closed due to getting Maternity Allowance but are now making a new claim within 12 weeks of the last one closing
- Mandatory reconsideration and appeal decisions for claims made before April 3rd
If you are assessed and placed into the main phase support group, you will receive an extra £36.55 a week.
How to make the claim
You can get plenty of information on how to claim and what the claim process is from the ESA section on the government website gov.uk. Here you can make a claim for ESA or you can call the ESA Contact Number for help in making your claim. There is also a special number for people with speech or hearing impairment.
If you are in Northern Ireland, there is also a dedicated line and help available through the NI government website. Again, you can call the team to make the claim and speak to a dedicated Northern Ireland advisor to start the process of claiming ESA.
No payment is made in the first 7 days of the claim as these are known as waiting days.
Third party deduction
When you claim ESA, you can arrange for bills and direct debits to be paid directly from your benefits. This is a system known as Third Party Deductions and can be set up by calling the ESA contact number. This means you don’t need to worry about paying bills yourself and you will receive the remainder of the payment into your bank account.