Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people who are too unwell to work. This section explains how to claim ESA, how you will be assessed and how to challenge decisions.

***** New emergency coronavirus legislation has been introduced. It means that there are some temporary changes to some of the information included below. You can read about the changes by clicking here. *****


  • You may get ESA or Universal Credit if you cannot work because of your illness.
  • There are 2 types of ESA: contribution-based and income related.
  • To claim ESA you need a ‘fit note’ from your GP that says you are unwell.
  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will ask you to fill in a form with questions about your health. This is to see if you can work. You will normally have to go for a health assessment.
  • If you get ESA, the DWP will put you in the ‘work-related activity group’ or the ‘support group’. This depends on how difficult it is for you to work.
  • In the work-related activity group (WRAG), you have to go to meetings to talk about what support you need to work.
  • In the support group, you don’t have to go to meetings and you get more money than you get in the WRAG.
  • If you disagree with a decision about ESA, you can ask the DWP to look at it again. You can appeal if you do not agree with their second decision.


We know that money and mental health problems often go hand in hand. That’s why Rethink Mental Illness, as part of Mental Health UK, have set up a new website. It will help you understand, manage and improve your mental and financial health. You can find a wide range of information to help you with your benefits.


Visit the Mental Health & Money Advice site now 

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