Press release

Publication of DWP research report 774: Routes onto Employment and Support Allowance

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Report of findings from a survey of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants.

The Department for Work and Pensions today publishes a report of findings from a survey of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants. The report provides detailed information about the characteristics of people who claim ESA and changes in their employment situation over a period of around 18 months.

Key findings

  • Half of people claiming ESA were in paid work immediately before their claim.  People who were employed prior to claiming were older, and the vast majority (85 per cent) had been in employment for most of their working lives.  Half had a health condition which was of recent (2008/09) onset.

  • People who were not in work before their claim have a particularly disadvantaged socio-economic profile.  Almost one-third had never worked or were long-term unemployed, 41 per cent had no qualifications, 25 per cent had literacy problems, and only 23 per cent were owner-occupiers.

  • Many ESA claimants have multiple health conditions (66 per cent) or fluctuating conditions (53 per cent).  Most claimants did not attribute their health conditions to work but a substantial minority (19 per cent) did, most commonly if they had a musculoskeletal condition (32 per cent).

  • Relatively few claimants had entered work a year to 18 months after their initial claim, regardless of their employment origins. A quarter of people who were in employment before claiming ESA had returned to work by the time of the follow-up survey wave but only nine per cent of those previously out of work had entered employment by that time.

  • Health and health beliefs are central to return to work.  Early recovery was a strong predictor of a return to employment. Among claimants who were in work immediately before their claim, the belief that work improves health was also associated with a higher likelihood of resuming work.

Notes for Editors:

  1. “Routes onto Employment and Support Allowance”, by Paul Sissons, Helen Barnes and Helen Stevens from the Institute for Employment Studies, was published on 22 September 2011 as report 774 in the DWP research report series. It is available on the DWP website

  2. The research involved face-to-face interviews with a sample of 3,650 people who claimed ESA between April and June 2009, and follow-up telephone interviews with 1,842 participants who agreed to be contacted again.

  3. Two other reports based on this survey, focusing on people’s experiences of claiming ESA have been published in the DWP research report series: Research Report 707, “Employment and Support Allowance: Findings from a face-to-face survey of customers” and Research Report 745 “Employment and Support Allowance: findings from a follow-up survey of customers”.