What is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

Please note that from January 2019, ESA is only available to new claimants in very limited circumstances. The majority of people making a new claim for benefit in these circumstances will now claim Universal Credit instead.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people of working-age who are not working and have "limited-capability for work" because of a disability or illness. It is made up of two elements, one means-tested and another non means-tested.

  • Contributory ESA (new style ESA) - non means tested
  • Income related ESA - means tested

When you first claim ESA, there is a 13-week assessment phase during which the DWP will assess your capability for work. After the assessment phase you will go on to "main phase" ESA, and the DWP will place you in either the work-related activity group (WRAG) or the support group.

If you are in a work related activity group, the maximum amount of time that you can receive contributory or new style ESA is limited to 365 days. If you are in the support group, there is no time limit.

Everyone currently claiming ESA will be transferred, or "migrated across to Universal Credit in the next few years, but in the meantime, there are still situations where ESA will continue to apply.

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