For the millions of people in the UK who suffer from a health condition or disability, finances can often be a source of worry.
If you’ve got a condition that stops you from living and working to your full capacity, there is some financial support out there.
About 2.7 million people in the UK currently receive Personal Independence Payments (PIP), a vital tax-free benefit which qualifies claimants for additional financial assistance if they have a long term physical or mental health condition or disability.
Read more: The medical conditions that could entitle you to hundreds in monthly support from DWP
But there is a benefit you can apply for if you have a disability of health condition that affects how much you can work.
Here’s what you should know about employment and support allowance (ESA) including how to find out if you qualify and how much you can get.
What is employment and support allowance (ESA)?
You can apply for employment and support allowance (ESA) if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.
You may also be able to get ESA if you were unable to work while self-isolating because of coronavirus (Covid-19).
ESA gives you money to help with living costs if you’re unable to work and support to get back into work if you’re able to.
You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed.
How do I know if I am eligible?
You can apply for ‘new style’ ESA if you’re under state pension age and you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.
You also need to have both worked as an employee or have been self-employed, and paid enough National Insurance contributions, usually in the last two to three years (National Insurance credits also count towards this). To find out more about National Insurance read our guide here.
After you claim you’ll be told if you need to have a work capability assessment to find out if your illness or disability affects how much you can work.
You might not need one of these, for example if you’re in hospital or you have a terminal illness. If you do need one, you’ll get a letter telling you to fill in the ‘Capability for work questionnaire’ and send it to the Health Assessment Advisory Service, the address for which will be on the form.
Assessments can be in person, by video call or on the phone. You’ll be told how your assessment will take place.
You cannot get ‘new style’ ESA if you already claim jobseeker’s allowance or statutory sick pay (SSP).
If you get universal credit you could also get ‘new style’ ESA at the same time. However, if you get both benefits, your universal credit payment is reduced by the amount you get for ‘new style’ ESA. Find out more about claiming both benefits together here.
ESA is usually paid more regularly than universal credit, and you get different National Insurance credits.
You can apply for ‘new style’ ESA if you’re unable to claim SSP and one of the following applies:
- you or your child might have Covid-19 or you’re recovering from it
- you or your child are self-isolating because you came into contact with someone who might have Covid-19
- you’ve been advised by your doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery
- you’re quarantining due to rules about returning from abroad
If you’re claiming ESA because of Covid-19, you’ll need to give evidence to support your claim. This can be done by getting an isolation note from the NHS. You can find out more about that here.
How much will I get?
How much you get will depend on what stage your application is at, as well as things like your age and whether you’re able to get back into work.
You’ll normally get the ‘assessment rate’ for 13 weeks while your claim is being assessed.
This will be:
- up to £59.20 a week if you’re aged under 25
- up to £74.70 a week if you’re aged 25 or over
If it takes longer than 13 weeks to assess your claim, you’ll continue getting the ‘assessment rate’ until you get a decision or until your ESA is due to end.
After your assessment, you’ll be placed into one of two groups if you’re entitled to ESA. If you’re able to get back into work in the future, you’ll be put into the work-related activity group. Otherwise, you’ll be put into the support group.
- up to £74.70 a week if you’re in the work-related activity group
- up to £114.10 a week if you’re in the support group
If you’re in the support group, this means you’ll get £456.40 a month in ESA.
Can I work while I claim?
You can usually work while you are claiming ESA if you work less than 16 hours a week and you do not earn more than £143 a week.
However you must tell Jobcentre Plus about your work when you make a claim.
How do I apply?
You can apply for ESA online here. You’ll need:
- your National Insurance number
- your bank or building society account number and sort code (you can use a friend or family member’s account if you do not have one)
- your doctor’s name, address and telephone number
- details of your income if you’re working
- the date your Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) ends if you’re claiming it
If you’re applying because of Covid-19, you’ll also need:
- an isolation note if you’re unable to work because of coronavirus
- your notification from the NHS or public health authorities if you’ve been told to self-isolate because you’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus
- a letter confirming the date of your procedure if you’ve been advised to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery
- your travel information if you’re quarantining because you’ve recently returned from abroad
Once you’ve applied, you’ll be contacted by phone and told when to give the evidence and where to send it.
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