Guidance

‘New Style’ Employment and Support Allowance: detailed guide

More detailed information about 'New Style' Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for stakeholders and claimants.

Overview

If you are ill or have a health condition or disability that limits your ability to work you may be able to get ‘New Style’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

‘New Style’ ESA is a fortnightly payment that can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit (UC).

‘New Style’ ESA is a contributory benefit. Normally, this means you may be able to get it if you’ve paid and/or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the 2 full tax years before the year you’re claiming in.

Eligibility

To get ‘New Style’ ESA you’ll need to have been an employee or self-employed and paid (or been credited with) National Insurance contributions, usually in the last 2 to 3 years.

You will also need to have a fit note (sometimes called ‘sick note’ or ‘doctor’s note’) but you can start making your claim before you have one. If you have only just become ill, you can self-certify for the first 7 days.

You can get ‘New Style’ ESA on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit. If you apply for and are awarded both benefits, the ‘New Style’ ESA you are paid will reduce your Universal Credit payment by the same amount.

You will not get any ‘New Style’ ESA if you’re getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from an employer - but you can apply up to 3 months before your SSP ends. If you get ‘New Style’ ESA, it will be paid as soon as your SSP ends.

You cannot claim ‘New Style’ ESA if you either:

  • get the severe disability premium, or are entitled to it
  • got or were entitled to the severe disability premium in the last month, and you’re still eligible for it

If you have a change of circumstances that affects the severe disability premium or your other benefits, report it and you’ll be told what to do next

How to claim

If you only want to apply for ‘New Style’ ESA on its own follow these steps. You will need to fill in an NSESAF1 claim form and attend a face to face ‘new claim appointment’ interview to apply for ‘New Style’ ESA.

You can either:

  • download and print the NSESAF1 form
  • call the Universal Credit helpline to get one through the post or by email

If you cannot download the form or use the phone, you can get a claim form from your local jobcentre.

You can also get the form in an accessible format, for example, braille, large print or audio CD by calling the Universal Credit helpline.

Universal Credit helpline

Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
NGT text relay – if you cannot hear or speak on the phone: 18001 then 0800 328 5644
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Find out about call charges

Make a ‘new claim appointment’

Call the Universal Credit helpline to make a ‘new claim appointment’.

If you (or your representative) cannot use the phone you can make an appointment in person at your local jobcentre.

What you need to bring to your appointment

You’ll need to bring the following to your appointment:

  • your completed NSESAF1 claim form
  • fit note (sometimes called ‘sick note’ or ‘doctor’s note’)
  • proof of your identity
  • proof of address
  • proof of any pensions you get
  • proof of any health insurance payments you get

Check your claim form to see what documents you can use to prove your identity and address. You’ll be told if you need to bring any other documents to your appointment.

Claiming ‘New Style’ ESA with Universal Credit

If you are already on Universal Credit, or will be applying for both ‘New Style’ ESA and Universal Credit together, call the Universal Credit helpline to apply.

You’ll have one interview to discuss both ‘New Style’ ESA and Universal Credit.

The ‘New Style’ ESA Process: what to expect

1. Start your claim

Start your claim by filling in an NSESAF1 claim form and arranging a ‘new claim appointment’ interview by calling the Universal Credit helpline.

Universal Credit helpline

Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
NGT text relay – if you cannot hear or speak on the phone: 18001 then 0800 328 5644
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

2. Attend the appointment with your work coach

Attend your ‘new claim appointment’ and agree with your work coach what actions you’ll need to take to get payments. This is called a ‘Claimant Commitment’.

You will need to provide your ID documents and fit note at this interview.

3. Notification and first payment

Following your ‘new claim appointment’ you’ll get a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) telling you if you’ll get ‘New Style’ ESA and how much.

If you qualify for ‘New Style’ ESA, you should get your first payment within 2 weeks of attending your ‘new claim appointment’ interview.

Further information on how much ‘New Style’ ESA to expect .

4. Provide updates about your health and circumstances

To keep getting ‘New Style’ ESA you must send fit notes regularly, report any change in your circumstances and keep to the ‘Claimant Commitment’ you signed at your interview.

Find out how to send DWP a fit note

Further information on reporting a change in your circumstances

5. Complete and return the ESA50 form

You will be sent form ESA50 in the post, usually within 4 weeks of your first payment. The ESA50 form is a capability for work questionnaire and is your chance to tell DWP how your health condition, disability or illness affects your ability to work.

You must send the form back within 28 days of the date you receive it from DWP.

If you’re also claiming Universal Credit the form will be called UC50, you’ll only have one form to complete.

6. Attending your Work Capability Assessment

After you return your ESA50 form you may be asked to go for an assessment, called a ‘Work Capability Assessment’. You will be contacted to arrange a date and time for the assessment.

If your health condition, illness or disability makes it difficult or impossible for you to travel to an assessment, you can ask for the assessment to be done at home instead.

The Work Capability Assessment is used to find out how much your health condition, disability or illness affects your ability to work. It assesses what you can do, as well as what you can’t do.

You’ll be asked questions about how your condition affects you in your day to day life. It gives you the opportunity to explain if, and how, your health condition or disability may vary over time.

More information on Work Capability Assessments.

If you’re claiming both ‘New Style’ ESA and Universal Credit you’ll only have to attend one Work Capability Assessment.

7. Decision letter

You’ll get a letter with a decision on whether you have limited capability for work or limited capability for work and work-related activity, and if you will continue to receive ‘New Style’ ESA. It will also tell you if you’ll need to be assessed again at some point in the future.

If you do need to be assessed again in the future, you’ll be sent another ESA50 form at the appropriate time. This normally happens within 3 years.

If you disagree with the decision you can ask for the decision to be looked at again - this is called a mandatory reconsideration.

If you’re claiming both ‘New Style’ ESA and Universal Credit you’ll get 2 decision letters. If you fail to return form UC50 or fail to attend the Work Capability Assessment you won’t be entitled to both ‘New Style’ ESA and Universal Credit.

The Work Capability Assessment finds out which one of 2 groups you will be placed in: the support group or the work related activity group.

The group you are placed in will decide the level of ‘New Style’ ESA you will get, the responsibilities you must meet to keep getting the benefit in full and how long you’ll get ‘New Style’ ESA.

In this group, you will be expected to take part in work-focused interviews and you’ll get support to help you prepare for suitable work in the future. You will not be required to look for work or apply for jobs while you are in this group.

It may affect your entitlement to ‘New Style’ ESA if you refuse to go to (or fully take part in) the work-focused interviews.

Support Group

In this group, because your illness or disability severely affects your ability to work, you will not be expected to take part in any work-related activities. You can do so on a voluntary basis if you want to.

You do not have to go to work-focused interviews either and will be paid the additional ‘support component’ of ‘New Style’ ESA in addition to the basic rate.

If you don’t have limited capability for work, or limited capability for work and work-related activity, you will not be placed in either group and your ‘New Style’ ESA entitlement will end.

If you disagree with the decision you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration and have the decision looked at again. You may also be able to claim other benefits.

How much ‘New Style’ ESA to expect

Assessment phase

The first 13 weeks of your claim is called the ‘assessment phase’ and you are paid the basic allowance.

How much you’ll get depends on your age:

  • aged 18 to 24 years – up to £57.90 (per week)
  • aged 25 years and over – up to £73.10 (per week)

Main phase

Once you have had your Work Capability Assessment and if you have been found to have limited capability for work, you will move onto the ‘main phase’ for ‘New Style’ ESA and you will get the basic allowance, plus a ‘support component’ if you are put in the support group.

  • basic allowance (standard rate) – up to £73.10 (per week)
  • support component – £38.55 (per week)

Payment

‘New style’ ESA is paid at the end of every 2 weeks into your bank, building society or credit union account.

Pension income

If you get an occupational or personal pension that pays more than £85 a week, your ‘New Style’ ESA payment will be reduced by half of the amount over the £85 limit.

Reporting a change of circumstances

You need to report changes to your circumstances so you keep getting the right amount of ‘New Style’ ESA (and Universal Credit if you are claiming both).

Your claim might be stopped or reduced if you do not report a change straight away.

A change of circumstance can include:

  • any changes to your health condition or disability
  • going into hospital or a care home or sheltered accommodation
  • starting or stopping work, education, training or an apprenticeship
  • moving house
  • changing your name
  • changes to your pension
  • changing your doctor
  • going abroad for any length of time

Call the ‘New Style’ ESA helpline if you’re not sure whether you need to report a change.

How to report changes of circumstances

You can report a change of circumstances by:

  • calling the ‘New Style’ ESA helpline
  • writing to the Jobcentre Plus office that pays your ‘New Style’ ESA – the address is on the letters you get about your ‘New Style’ ESA

‘New Style’ ESA helpline

Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
NGT text relay – if you cannot hear or speak on the phone: 18001 then 0800 169 0310
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Find out about call charges

If you’re claiming Universal Credit as well as ‘new style’ ESA, you must report changes to both services.

Universal Credit helpline

Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
NGT text relay – if you cannot hear or speak on the phone: 18001 then 0800 328 5644
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Find out about call charges

British Sign Language (BSL) video relay service

To use this, you’ll need to:

  • check you can use the service

check you can use the service

The video relay service is available Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

If you’re in Northern Ireland contact the NI Direct Employment and Support Allowance Centre.

Below is a document that can be printed out and folded into a handy guide.

After opening this document:

  • press Ctrl P or command P to access your print menu
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Print and fold: 'New Style' Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimant guide

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Published 17 June 2019