Employment Support Allowance - How can I claim ESA?
How can I claim ESA?
You can telephone the Jobcentre Plus contact centre to begin a claim for ESA. An adviser can complete the first application form over the telephone. This form is called the ESA1. It asks for information about you and your partner including:
- Name, address and date of birth
- National insurance numbers
- Brief explanation of your illness or disability
- Name and address of your GP
- Details of other benefits
- Details of previous work
You can ask for the application form to be sent to you if you would prefer or you get a copy online and take it to your nearest Jobcentre Plus office. You can download the form here:
If you need help, a carer, friend or relative could make the telephone call or fill in the form for you. You will need to be with them when they make any calls so you can give them permission to speak for you.
Jobcentre Plus contact centre
Telephone: 0800 055 66 88 (8am-6pm Monday to Friday).
Text phone service: 0800 023 4888.
What is the Work Capability Assessment?
The DWP uses a test called the ‘Work Capability Assessment’ to decide if you can get ESA. The DWP will need you to:
- Complete a form called the ESA50.
- Provide supporting medical evidence from a health care professional. This is not essential but can help the DWP make a correct decision sooner.
- Attend a face to face assessment.
The assessment takes a minimum of 13 weeks. Throughout the assessment phase, you will have to provide medical notes from your GP saying that you are not well enough to work. If your medical note runs out before the DWP make a decision about your claim, you will have to get a new one. If your medical note runs out and you do not get a new one, your benefit will stop.
The application form
Shortly after your claim begins, you will get an ESA50 form in the post. This is a questionnaire which asks how your illness or disability makes it harder for you to work. There will be a letter with the application form which tells you when you have to return the form to the DWP. If you cannot get the form completed by the date on the letter, contact the DWP and explain that you need more time.
A benefits adviser could help with your application.
When the DWP are deciding about your claim, they must take into account any medical evidence you give them. Your GP, Community Psychiatric Nurse, psychiatrist, social worker or care worker can all provide useful information.
The medical evidence should explain how your condition makes it harder for you to work, or what could happen to your health if you had to start looking for work. A letter that only confirms your diagnosis isn’t as helpful.
You should make copies of your evidence and keep the originals somewhere safe. You can attach the evidence to the ESA50 or send it separately if you need to. Remember to write your name, address, National Insurance number and claim number on any paperwork that you send.
Most people will be asked to go to a face to face medical assessment. A healthcare professional (usually a doctor or nurse) will do the assessment. They will ask you some questions about a normal day and will write a report based on the information you give them.
You can take someone with you to the assessment. This could be a friend or relative, carer, support worker or anyone that knows you well. You could take someone with you for support and reassurance or to make notes about what was said. They may also be able to give the healthcare professional useful information about your condition.
Once the DWP have all the information they need, they will decide whether you can get ESA
What is the Work Related Activity Group and the Support Group?
There are three decisions the DWP can make about your claim:
- You could get ESA and be put into the Work Related Activity group (WRAG).
- You could get ESA and be put into the Support Group.
- You could be told you are fit for work. If this happens you will not get ESA and will either have to challenge the decision or claim Jobseekers Allowance.
Work Related Activity Group (WRAG)
- If you are in the WRAG you will have to got to at least six work focussed Interviews.
- You may have to take part in the work programme. See section 5 ‘What is the work programme?’ for more information about this.
- If you are in the WRAG you will get less money than if you were in the support group.
- You can only get contribution-based ESA for one year if you are in the WRAG.
- If you are in the support group you do not have to take part in work related activities such as the work programme.
- If you are in the support group you will get more money.
- If you get contribution based ESA and are in the support group the one year time limit does not apply.
If the DWP takes longer than 13 weeks to decide which group you are in, you will get your additional amounts backdated to week 14 of your claim.
What is the work programme?
The work programme is a scheme that aims to help people into work. If you are on ESA and are in the WRAG you may have to take part in the work programme to get your full ESA payment.
If you are in the Support Group of ESA you do not have to take part in the Work Programme. However, you can choose to at any point if you think it will be helpful.
A number of different organisations run the Work Programme. These organisations are called providers. If you have to attend the work programme, you will have regular meetings with the provider. You will discuss what will help you get into work.
You could ask for support with:
- Finding information about different jobs and industries.
- Application writing & interview skills.
- Managing a mental illness in the workplace.
The provider should think about your individual needs and have a good knowledge of the work and training opportunities in your area.
What will happen if I don’t attend an interview or assessment?
Your ESA may be reduced if you don’t go to your medical assessment, a work-focused interview, the work programme or any other meeting that the DWP asks you to.
You may have a good reason for not being able to go to a meeting, for example you may have been unwell. It is best to tell the DWP as soon as you know you will not be able to attend a meeting. If you do not contact the DWP about a missed appointment, they will contact you. You have five days after missing an appointment to tell the DWP why you could not attend before they consider reducing your ESA.
Do I need to speak to a benefit adviser?
The welfare benefits system is complicated. You should speak to a benefit adviser if you don’t know which benefits you could get. You may be able to get help with difficult situations such as claims or appeals.
The help you will get from a benefit adviser will depend on the organisation you speak to. Some just offer advice and information, while others can help you fill in forms or go with you to meeting or appeals.
It can be difficult to find benefits advice, and harder still to find more hands on help. There have been some changes to the legal aid system meaning far fewer people can get help from a legal adviser.
Some solicitors or legal advisers will give benefits advice but will normally charge a fee. Legal aid can pay for benefits advice for some people. However you can only get legal aid if you are appealing a tribunal decision.
The most common place to find a benefits adviser is a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
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