What is Employment and Support Allowance?

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people who find it harder to get a job because:

  • they have a disability
  • they have a problem with their health and will have this problem for a long time, or the rest of their lives.

ESA is the replacement for incapacity benefit and receiving income support because you have a disability.

Who can get Employment and Support Allowance?

If you are over 16 and have a disability or ill health, which means you are not able to work, you can apply for Employment and Support Allowance. 

How do I claim Employment and Support Allowance?

You can make a claim for Employment and Support Allowance by telephoning Jobcentre Plus. You will need to answer some questions.

As part of your claim you will get a form to fill in. This form is called ESA50. The form asks you about things you can do and things you find hard. You may then have a face-to-face appointment with a doctor, nurse or other health professional.

This is called the Work Capability Assessment. Most people are called for a face to face assessment. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

We've compiled useful answers to some of your frequently asked questions around Universal Credit.

Click on the questions below to reveal the answer.

Take a look at our factsheet

We've created an Employment Support Allowance (ESA) factsheet which explains the Work Capability Assessment, including how to prepare and what to expect when you're there.

Download resource Employment Support Allowance (ESA) factsheet
Can I get support with my application for Employment and Support Allowance?

Yes.  You can ask for help to fill in the form from people who know you well like family or support staff. Write down as much as you can about your disability or health problems and support needs.

Before you send it back make a copy for yourself - this way you can remember what you wrote. You should also send any evidence you have about how your disability affects you. Page 4 of the form has a list of what you can send. 

Will I need to be seen by a doctor or nurse for my Employment and Support Allowance application?

You may be asked to go to a face to face appointment with a doctor, nurse or other health professional. Along with the form you filled in, this is called the Work Capability Assessment.

They will ask you about your disability or health problems to find out how your disability affects you.

This usually takes place in an assessment centre, but you can ask for it to be done at your home if you would have difficulty travelling.

You must go to your appointment if you are asked to. If you do not, it may mean that you do not receive Employment and Support Allowance.

I have been turned down for Employment and Support Allowance, how do I challenge the decision?

If you want to challenge a decision about your Employment and Support Allowance, you must ask the Department of Work and Pensions to look at their decision again.

This is called a mandatory reconsideration. You must do this within a month of the letter that told you that you had been turned down. If they do not change their decision, then you can appeal. A Tribunal will decide whether to change the decision. More information is available from the government's website.

Try to get an advisor to help you with your appeal. You can find advisors in your local area. You can also contact Mencap Direct for more information on appealing an ESA decision.

Do I have to go to a medical appointment for my Employment and Support Allowance application?

Yes. You must go to your appointment if you are asked to. If you do not, it may mean that you do not receive Employment and Support Allowance.

What is the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG)?

If it is decided that you could find paid work with the right help and support, you will be in the work-related activity group. This means that you will have to do things that help you get ready to work in the future. You will have a work coach who will decide what you need to do. You will meet with your work coach for ‘work-focused interviews’. You might also do voluntary work or training. 

What happens in the Work Related Activity Group?

The WRAG is there to find out what capability you have to be able to be involved in work related activity in the future.

It  is there to find out if you can take part in some kinds of work if you have the right support and help.The doctor or nurse talks to you more about things you may have problems doing, such as:

  • walking, standing and sitting
  • lifting and carrying things
  • seeing and hearing well
  • speaking clearly.

The WRAG also looks at:

  • how you learn and remember new things
  • if you can follow instructions
  • how you find being around  other people.

After your assessment, the Jobcentre Plus will use what the doctor tells them to help them make a decision about which group you go into next.

Do I have to go to my meetings in the Work Related Activity Group?

Yes. You must go to all these interviews to make sure you carry on getting your full amount of Employment and Support Allowance. There is more information available in our easy read guide to Employment and Support Allowance.

What is the support group?

If it is decided that you cannot do things to get ready to work in the future, you will be placed in the support group. You can choose to do things to get ready for work, but you do not have to. You do not have to go to any meetings or interviews to carry on getting your full amount of Employment and Support Allowance.

Can I do paid work and still claim Employment and Support Allowance?

Yes, under certain conditions and as long as you tell the Department for Work and Pensions. If you earn up to £20 a week or work less than 16 hours a week and earn up to £115.50 a week, your Employment and Support Allowance shouldn’t be affected.

You always need to tell the Department for Work and Pensions about any work and if your circumstances change, and they will advise you on what you are allowed to do.

You can read more about this on the Department for Work and Pensions website.

Once I get Employment and Support Allowance, will I have to be reassessed so I can keep getting it?

Yes, most people will be reassessed at some point after starting to get Employment and Support Allowance. This could be quite often for some people, such as once a year. You will be told about this when you first get Employment and Support Allowance and will receive a letter when you are due a reassessment.

Where can I find out further information?

You may also wish to try these links:

What is Employment and Support Allowance?

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people who find it harder to get a job because:

  • they have a disability
  • they have a problem with their health and will have this problem for a long time, or the rest of their lives.

ESA is the replacement for incapacity benefit and receiving income support because you have a disability.

Who can get Employment and Support Allowance?

If you are over 16 and have a disability or ill health, which means you are not able to work, you can apply for Employment and Support Allowance. 

How do I claim Employment and Support Allowance?

You can make a claim for Employment and Support Allowance by telephoning Jobcentre Plus. You will need to answer some questions.

As part of your claim you may get a form to fill in. This form is called ESA50. The form asks you about things you can do and things you find hard. You may then have a face-to-face appointment with a doctor, nurse or other health professional. This is called the Work Capability Assessment. 

The ESA Assessment Support website gives lots of information on how to prepare for the assessment. 

Useful resources

We've created the following factsheets to help you with the benefits application, Care Act assessment and follow-up process.

Welfare benefits

Social care

How to get the support you need

Contact the Learning Disability Helpline, our advice and support line, for guidance and information about what support we can offer you.

Or why not take a look at FamilyHub? This is our online community for parents and family carers of people with a learning disability, and is a place for sharing experiences, advice and support.

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