Employment Support Allowance - Claiming
How can I claim ESA?
People usually start by phoning a Jobcentre Plus contact centre, the adviser there will go through the application form over the telephone with you. If this is difficult for you, you can ask for a paper claim form. It is possible for someone to make the phone call on your behalf. You can call 0800 055 66 88 (8am-6pm Monday to Friday). A text phone service is available if you have a speech or hearing impairment on 0800 0234 888. You can also download a paper copy of the form from this website - http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/FinancialSupport/esa/DG_172014
You will have to provide a medical note from your GP which shows that you are not fit for work. Since April 2010 doctors now provide a ‘fit note’ rather than a ‘sick note’.
What happens next?
You will be sent an ESA50 questionnaire which asks more questions about how your condition affects your ability to work. You may also be asked to attend a medical with a healthcare professional from Atos Healthcare. Atos are contracted by the DWP to conduct their disability assessments.
Please see the our Advice and Information Service’s ‘Work Capability Assessment’ section for more detailed information on how to fill in the questionnaire and what to expect at the medical. It also explains the criteria the DWP use to decide whether you are eligible for ESA.
Once you have gone through the Work Capability Assessment process, the DWP will make a decision about whether they think you qualify for ESA.
They could either decide that you are:
- fit to work
- not well enough to work right now but could be with support. If they make this decision you will be placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG)
- not well enough to work. If they make this decision you will be placed in the Support Group.
If you are placed in the WRAG you will have to attend 6 Work Focussed Interviews. These are not the same as job interviews. They are meetings with a personal adviser to discuss the barriers you face getting back to work and how they could be overcome. They could put you forward for training courses to increase your skills or help with CV writing.
The Work Programme
The Work Programme is a scheme that aims to help people into work. The Jobcentre Plus puts people who claim Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) onto the Work Programme. Some people must take part in the work programme to get their full benefit payment.
If you are in the Work Related Activity Group, and your ESA is due to be reviewed in the next 12 months, you must take part in the Work Programme when asked to. If you refuse you may lose some of your benefit.
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.
There are a number of different organisations that run the Work Programme. These organisations are called providers. You will have regular meetings with the provider where 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 techniques
- managing a mental illness in the work place
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?
The first work-focused interview and the follow-up interviews are compulsory. If you don’t attend a work-focused interview, your ESA may be reduced. This is called a ‘reduction’. New rules mean the DWP can stop paying you all of the basic amount of ESA if you don’t attend without a valid reason.
If there was ‘good cause’ for not being able to attend the interview, because you were unwell for example, you have to let the DWP know within 5 days after being notified of your failure to take part in the interview.
Need practical advice & info? We can help.
Contact our Advice team about mental health & related issues
0300 5000 927 Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm, not including bank holidays