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How to Make the Most of the Employment and Support Allowance in the UK

The Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) is a program in the UK that assists individuals who are ill, disabled, as well as employed, self-employed or unemployed. They receive financial support due to the inability to work. In some cases, these individuals will receive personalised assistance so that they can work if they are able to. Some individuals may be transferred to the ESA program if they have been claiming other government benefits such as Income Support or Incapacity Benefit. This article will address how to make the most of the program by completely understanding the scope of the benefits and how to finalize the application process.


Assessing Work Capability

Applicants need to attend a Work Capability Assessment while their ESA claim is being processed. This assessment will evaluate the degree that their disability or illness affects their ability to work to full capacity. Applicants will then be placed into one of two groups if they are deemed entitled to the benefits.

  • Work-Related Activity Group – the individual will attend regular interviews with an advisor for continual guidance with regard to job goals and improving skillsets.
  • Support Group – the individual will attend a support group but does not need to attend regular interviews with an advisor.


What to Expect Regarding Benefits

The amount of ESA benefits awarded to applicants is dependent upon their circumstances and how much income they receive. Additionally, there are various types of ESA benefits that individuals may qualify for depending on where they are at in the assessment process. The benefits calculator will assist applicants in ascertaining the estimated amount of benefits they may receive.


Finances Available Through ESA  

There are various factors that are involved in assessing your situation and in the amount of benefits that you are awarded. During the assessment process you will be eligible for the following benefits for 13 weeks after you first file your claim.

  • Up to £57.35 each week for applicants under age 25
  • Up to £72.40 each week for applicants age 25 and older

After the assessment process is completed and applicants are confirmed to be eligible for ESA benefits, they will be placed in one of the two groups previously mentioned and receive the following benefits.

  • Up to £101.15 each week the applicant attends the work-related activity group
  • Up to £108.15 each week the applicant attends the support group

For any assessments that take longer than the estimated general 13 weeks, applicant’s benefits will be backdated to the 14 week of the claim.


Types of ESA Benefits Offered  

There are two types of ESA benefits available. One is the Contribution-based ESA for individuals who have enough National Insurance contributions. The second type is the Income-Related ESA for individuals who have a low income and sometimes they can receive this benefit in addition to the Contribution-based one.

  • Contribution-based ESA – for those applicants in a work-related activity group, their benefits last for 1 year. They are eligible to reapply after a period of 12 weeks after the benefits end. The qualification process depends on the amount of National Insurance contributions applicants have paid in various tax years. Additionally, whether or not your health deteriorates and you are placed into a support group is another factor. For those applicants who are involved in a support group, there is no time limit on how long applicants can claim contribution-based ESA benefits.
  • Income-related ESA – For those who no longer qualify for contribution-based ESA, they may qualify for income-related ESA. The amount of benefits applicants receive depends on current circumstances. There is no time limit regarding receiving income-related ESA.


Benefits Sanctions & Payments

If for any reason you do not attend your work-related activity group and meet with your advisor and don’t comply with agreed upon goals, your ESA benefits can be reduced. Such a reduction in benefits can continue for a term of up to 4 weeks. If a sanction is imposed, you will receive notification in writing. Be sure to discuss with your advisor why you missed the interview. Two options are in place for those who receive a sanction. One is to ask for your case file to be reviewed again. The second is to apply for a “hardship payment by contacting Job Centre Plus.

All confirmed applicants will receive their benefits payments directly into their bank account. If the payment scheduled date lands on a bank holiday, the payment will be deposited on the final working day prior to the holiday.  


Eligibility for ESA Benefits

The following listing details the eligibility requirements for applicants interested in applying for ESA benefits. Individuals receive such benefits if their disability or illness negatively impacts their ability to work, in addition to the following factors.

  • The applicant is under the State Pension age
  • The applicant is not receiving Statutory Sick pay, Statutory Maternity Pay and he or she has not returned to work
  • The applicant is not receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance 

Applicants can use the benefits calculator to determine their eligibility for benefits.


How to Claim ESA Benefits

Applicants can apply for ESA benefits by contacting the office via phone for the quickest assistance to processing their claim. The ESA office telephone is: 0800 055 6688. The textphone is: 0800 023 4888 and the Welsh language telephone is: 0800 012 1888. Office hours are 8 am – 6 pm on Monday through Friday. Applicants can print out and complete the ESA1 Form and either send it via mail or take it directly to the Job Centre Plus Office.

In order to file a claim, applicants will need to provide the following information:

  • National Insurance Number
  • A medical certificate
  • GP’s full contact information
  • Applicant’s home and mobile telephone numbers
  • Mortgage or landlord contact information
  • Current council tax bill
  • Employer’s address and telephone number
  • Dates of employment and last day working
  • Personal bank account details
  • Financial records regarding other income sources

Making the most of the Employment & Support Allowance program begins with becoming informed with the eligibility requirements and application process. Following the steps as detailed in this article will assist in the process of claiming ESA benefits.


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