Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) & Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Overview

If you have an illness, health condition, or a disability which means you find it difficult or impossible to work you might be able to get ESA.

There are different types of ESA:

  • New Style ESA
  • Income-related ESA

New Style ESA

If you live in a Universal Credit full service area (such as Manchester) and are looking to apply for ESA contributions-based because you are unable to work due to illness and have paid in enough National Insurance contributions in the last two full tax years before you claim, you will be advised to apply for New Style ESA or Universal Credit. You can get New Style ESA as well as Universal Credit (your Universal Credit entitlement will be reduced accordingly) or you can claim Universal Credit only. 

For more information on New Style ESA visit:
www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-employment-and-support-allowance

If you are not sure what type of ESA you should apply for find our more at www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/types-of-esa

If you need further information on this, or are not sure what benefits to claim, please contact the One Money team on 0330 355 1000.

Income-related ESA

This benefit is being phased out and new claimants are likely to be put onto Universal Credit. If you are on Employment & Support Allowance and have a change of circumstance, you might be moved across to Universal Credit.

If you have any questions regarding your Employment & Support Allowance or change to Universal Credit please contact our One Money team or visit www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance

Stage 1 - completing the initial claim (ESA1 form)

The initial claim is done over the phone – the DWP adviser will fill in the ESA1 claim form for you during the call.

The numbers to call are:

If you are not getting Universal Credit 

Telephone: 0800 055 6688 
Textphone: 0800 023 4888 

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

If you are getting/eligible for Universal Credit

Telephone: 0800 328 5644

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Most people apply by phone - you can get your first ESA payment more quickly if you apply this way. The phone call usually lasts between 20 and 30 minutes.

Information needed to complete your initial claim

When you ring to apply over the phone you will need to provide quite a lot of information including:

  • your National Insurance number
  • details of your illness or disability
  • your doctor's contact details
  • work you are doing or details of benefits that you get
  • employer's address and telephone number and dates of employment or last day worked
  • your rent or mortgage details
  • any savings or investments you have, or any other money you receive (like benefits or child maintenance)
  • bank account details for where you want your ESA paid into

Stage 2 - completing the questionnaire (ESA50 form)

You will receive a form in the post. This asks some very in depth questions about your health and how it affects you in your daily activities. It is important that you seek help completing this form as it can be quite difficult. We can help you with this.

Stage 3 - attending your assessment

You will receive a phone call or letter with a date and time for the assessment.

When they contact you, they will also tell you which of their centres you need to go to for your assessment.

If your illness or disability makes it difficult or impossible for you to travel to an assessment, you can ask for the assessment to be done at home instead. Tell the Health Assessment Advisory Service when they call – they’ll ask you to provide information from your doctor, or other medical professional, to explain why you are unable to travel.

You can take someone with you to the assessment with you if you want to. This could be a friend, relative or carer.

It is essential that you attend the assessment otherwise your claim will be cancelled.

The medical assessment

This can be extremely stressful for most people so it is worth finding out more about what will happen on the day and where possible take somebody along with you. Here are some more details that might help.

Getting ready for your medical assessment

Think about how your illness or disability affects you - particularly on bad days – such as:

  • the kind of things you have difficulty with, or can't do at all - for example, walking up steps without help, or remembering to go to appointments
  • what a usual day for you is like - how your condition affects you from day-to-day
  • what a bad day is like for you - e.g. 'On a bad day I can't walk at all because my injured leg hurts so much' or 'On a bad day I'm so depressed I can't concentrate on anything'

What to take with you

You’ll need to take identification with you to your assessment. If you don’t have a passport, you need to take along two different types of identification. For example:

  • your birth certificate
  • your full driving licence
  • a recent bank statement that shows your name and address
  • a gas or electricity bill

You should also have with you:

  • any medication you need
  • any aids and appliances that you use like glasses, hearing aids or a walking stick

What happens at your medical assessment

An independent medically qualified assessor (sometimes called a healthcare professional) will check how your illness or disability affects your ability to work. They use the information you've given on your ESA50 form and also draw opinions and make assumptions from what you say and do on the day.

For example, they might ask you how you got to the assessment centre. If you say you came on the bus, they’ll make a note that you can travel alone on public transport.

Or, if you say you go shopping in a supermarket they may assume you can walk around the supermarket unless you make it clear that you can't or need help.

Or they could ask how long you’ve been sitting in the waiting room before the assessment. If you say ’half an hour’, they’ll make a note that you can sit on an ordinary chair for at least 30 minutes. In this example, it could be helpful to explain further if relevant, e.g. that you waited half an hour but had to walk around because you couldn't sit for that long.

You might be asked to carry out some physical tasks during the assessment. The assessor might also examine you in a similar way that a doctor would.

Tips for your medical assessment

Dos

  • tell the assessor everything you can that's relevant to your illness, health condition or disability, even if it's already on your form
  • back up what you've said on the ESA50 form with any evidence you can, like a doctor's letter or examples of things that have happened to you
  • ask for any help you need - it can make the assessment less stressful

Don'ts

  • exaggerate or lie about your condition
  • feel you have to do anything you normally wouldn't be able to do
  • expect the assessor to be 'on your side' - they're there to ask questions, not make sure you get ESA

The assessor doesn’t make the decision about your ESA - they make a recommendation to the DWP after your assessment. At your assessment, they won’t be able to tell you what they’re going to recommend.

You can get a copy of your assessment report by asking the DWP office that’s looking after your claim. The phone number will be on any letters you’ve had from them about your ESA claim.

After your assessment, a decision maker from the DWP will look at the recommendation made by the assessor and use this to decide if you can get ESA.

Travel expenses - what you can get back

You can get travel costs paid back into your bank account. Bring the details with you to the assessment and the receptionist will help you fill in a claim form.

You can also get back the fares of anyone who needs to come with you. If you want to claim expenses for someone else to travel with you, let the Health Assessment Advisory Service know.

Public transport - Make sure you keep any tickets or receipts.

By car - You can claim back your fuel costs. The rate is 25p per mile. You can also get back any parking costs.

By taxi - If you can only travel by taxi, you need to telephone before the assessment on 0800 288 8777 to let the Health Assessment Advisory Service know. They’ll then get a healthcare professional to consider your request and will let you know if they’ll cover your taxi fare.

Health Assessment Advisory Service

Telephone: 0800 288 8777

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

ESA Rates

While you are waiting for your application to be assessed you will be placed in what is called the ‘assessment phase’ - this usually lasts for 13 weeks but can sometimes be longer. The amount you get during this time will depend on your age.

Criteria Weekly rate
If you are 25 or over £73.10*
If you are 24 or under £57.90*

Correct as of January 2017

If you are a carer or have a severe disability, you could get an additional premium.

Once your application is approved

Once you have attended your assessment and the DWP have decided you are not fit for work you will be put into either the ‘work-related activity group’ (WRAG) where you will have regular interviews with an adviser or the ‘support group’, where you will not need to have interviews.

Work-related activity group (WRAG)*

You will be placed in this group if the DWP decide you are not well enough to work but are well enough to be helped to improve your chances of getting work in the future. You will have a dedicated adviser at your local Jobcentre who will be able to help you to get back into work or training.

ESA Type Weekly rate
Contribution-based ESA £73.10
Income-related ESA

up to £73.10

*You might get more money in the work-related activity group if your claim started before 3rd April 2017.

Correct as of March 2018.

The support group

You will be placed in this group if the DWP decide that you are not well enough to work and not well enough to be helped to improve your chance of getting work in the future.

ESA Type Weekly rate
Contribution-based ESA £110.75
Income-related ESA up to £110.75

Correct as of January 2017

If your assessment was carried out after 13 weeks you will get your award backdated to start on the 14th week of your claim.

It might be worth having a full benefit check to see if this award entitles you to any other benefits or premiums – we can help you do this or you can do it online at:

www.entitledto.co.uk/benefits-calculator or www.turn2us.org.uk

How to appeal

You will need to ask for a mandatory reconsideration before you appeal - you must usually do this within one month of the date of the decision letter.

Your original decision will be reconsidered after which you will get a mandatory reconsideration notice (sometimes known as a ‘written statement of reasons’) telling you whether the decision has been changed.

If you are still not happy with the decision you can appeal to the tribunal. You must do this within one month of the date of your mandatory reconsideration notice.

To do this you must fill in form SSCS1. You must usually send your appeal within a month of the date of your mandatory reconsideration notice.

Late appeals

You must say why your appeal is late when you appeal, for example, if you were:

  • ill or in hospital
  • coping with bereavement
  • unable to send your appeal form, for example because of a postal strike

The tribunal will contact the other party - they can object to late appeals. The tribunal will then decide if the appeal can be heard.

Choose if you want a hearing

You must choose whether:

  • you want to go to a hearing - you will be able to present your case to a tribunal OR
  • you want your appeal decided on your application form and supporting documents

If you want to go to a hearing you must say whether:

  • you'll have a representative who'll be at the hearing
  • you need an interpreter
  • you need any special arrangements, for example because of mobility or other health issues
  • there are any days when you can't make the hearing

Help with the form

Call the helpline if you have any questions about completing the form or we can help you with this. The helpline can’t give you legal advice.

Social Security and Child Support Tribunal (England and Wales)

Telephone: 0300 123 1142

Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm

What happens at the hearing?

You must take your appeal papers and the documents you are using as evidence. Evidence will usually be shared with all parties.

You (and anyone you’ve brought to take part in the hearing) may be asked questions by:

  • your representative (if you have one), such as a lawyer, friend, family member or someone from an advice centre
  • the government department or council's representative (known as the 'presenting officer')
  • a panel of experts - who they are depends on what the case is about
  • the judge

The tribunal will provide you with an interpreter if you have asked for one. They can translate what happens during the hearing but they cannot represent you or give you legal advice.

Claiming expenses

You may be able to claim for reasonable expenses for going to the tribunal, e.g.

  • travel expenses to cover your fare if you got there using public transport
  • travel expenses of 12p per mile if you drive, plus 2p per mile for up to two passengers
  • meals - £4.25 if you're away for more than 5 hours, £9.30 for more than 10 hours or £13.55 for more than 12 hours
  • loss of earnings - £37.06 if you're away from work for up to 4 hours or £71.80 for 4 hours or more
  • care expenses up to the National Minimum Wage, for example for a childminder

The clerk will help you fill in a claim form when you go to the hearing. Contact the tribunal before the hearing if you need help. Make sure you take:

  • receipts
  • a letter from your employer for loss of earnings

The tribunal's decision

You will get the decision either:

  • at the hearing
  • by post

If you are unhappy with the decision

You cannot appeal this decision unless there has been an error in the law. If this is the case you may be able to:

  • get a decision 'set aside'
  • appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber)

Your decision letter will have more information.

Getting a decision set aside

You will be told how to get a decision ‘set aside’ (cancelled) if you think there has been a mistake in the process.

Appealing to the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber

You can only appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) if you think the decision was wrong for a legal reason, for example, if the tribunal didn’t:

  • give proper reasons for its decision, or back up the decision with facts
  • apply the law properly

We can help you with this.

Your ESA can be reduced if you do not go to an interview or do work-related activity as agreed with your adviser. The sanction can be for up to four weeks after you restart the interviews or activity.

If you get a 'sanction letter' speak to your ESA adviser if you have a good reason for missing the interview.

You will get another letter if the decision is made to give you a sanction. Your benefit will only be affected once a decision has been made. 

You should contact Manchester City Council immediately if you are claiming Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction as this might be affected. They will tell you what to do to continue getting support.

If you get a sanction you can:

You may be able to get a hardship payment if your income-related ESA has been reduced because of a sanction or fraud penalty. You don't have to pay it back.

A hardship payment is a reduced amount of your ESA (usually 60%).

Eligibility

  • You can get a hardship payment if you can't pay for rent, heating, food or other basic needs for you or your child.
  • You must be 18 or over.

How to claim

Speak to your Job Centre Plus adviser or work coach to find out how to claim a hardship payment.

Job Centre Plus

Telephone: 0800 169 0310

Textphone: 0800 169 0314

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

This benefit is being phased out and new claimants are likely to be put onto Universal Credit. If you are on Jobseeker's Allowance and have a change of circumstance you might be moved across to Universal Credit.

If you have any questions regarding your Jobseeker's Allowance or change to Universal Credit please contact our One Money team or visit www.gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance

New Style Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

If you live in a Universal Credit full service area (such as Manchester) and are looking to apply for JSA (Contributions-based) because you have recently finished work and have paid in enough National Insurance contributions in the last two full tax years before you claim, you will be advised to claim new style JSA or Universal Credit. You can claim New Style JSA online or by phone on 0800 055 6688. You can get New Style JSA as well as Universal Credit (your Universal Credit entitlement will be reduced accordingly) or you can claim Universal Credit only. 

For more information on New Style JSA visit:
www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-jobseekers-allowance

If you are not sure what benefits you should claim, please contact the One Money team or visit www.gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance