What is employment and support allowance?

You can get employment and support allowance (ESA) if your ability to work is limited by ill health or disability.

What are the rules for ESA?

If you are claiming ESA you must:

What is the assessment phase?

When you make a claim for ESA you have to have an initial assessment. This assessment usually takes place over 13 weeks, but can be longer. During the assessment phase you will undergo a work capability assessment and a work focused interview.

The work capability assessment

The ESA work capability assessment (WCA) is carried out by a health care professional working on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. It is intended to:

The ‘limited capability for work’ test is used to see if you can stay on ESA. Points are scored based on your ability or inability to carry out a number of physical or 'mental, cognitive and intellectual' activities and points are awarded on the basis of your limitations with respect to each activity. These points are totalled up and if the total reaches the threshold of 15, you are deemed to have limited capability for work.
The 'limited capability for work-related activity' test is used to decide whether you are placed in the support group of claimants or the work-related activity group. The test has a list of 46 descriptors, relating to both physical and mental functions. If at least one of them fits, you will be placed in the support group of claimants.

The initial work-focused interview

You are expected to attend an initial ‘work-focused interview’, unless you are terminally ill. This will normally take place during the 8th week of your ESA claim. At this interview a personal adviser will discuss your work prospects, the steps that you are willing to take to move into work and the support available to you.
The interview can be waived if you are likely to be starting a job or returning to work. The personal adviser can also defer an interview if, because of your condition, it would be inappropriate at that particular time.

The contributory test

You will need to have paid enough National Insurance contributions in specific tax years to satisfy this test. If you do pass the test you will receive a flat-rate benefit payment for yourself.

The low income test - income related ESA

This is a test similar to income support, your needs are compared with your resources, such as your income and savings, and the income-related allowance worked out from this comparison.