What is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

Given the restriction measures currently in place due to coronavirus, some rules around claiming and assessments for benefits have been changed or relaxed in the short term. Please check our Coronavirus (Covid-19): Welfare and benefits section to ensure you are getting the most up to date information or call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999, from 8am to 8pm weekdays or 9am to 1pm Saturdays.

ESA is now only available to new claimants in very limited circumstances. Most people making a new claim for benefit in these circumstances will now claim Universal Credit instead.

ESA is a single benefit with two elements: income-related ESA and contributory ESA (now also known as new style ESA). You may qualify for one or both elements.

Income-related ESA has now been replaced by Universal Credit for most new claimants.

Income-related ESA will still apply to you however if you qualify for a “Severe Disability Premium” at the time you make your claim.

If you receive “Severe Disability Premium” as part of another benefit, such as Housing Benefit, you cannot claim Universal Credit and will have to claim income-related ESA.

Contribution-based (also known as new style) ESA may also apply to you if you have been working in the years prior to your claim and satisfy the National Insurance contribution conditions.

If you are claiming income-related ESA, then you must also be “habitually resident” in the UK. This is decided by looking at factors including; reasons for coming to the UK, the length of your stay, future intentions, and previous links with the country.

These rules are complicated and there are some exceptions, for instance if you are living in a European Economic Area (EEA) country. Contact our Helpline if you think you may have difficulty passing these tests.

Further information on ESA including the rules and exceptions can be found on RNIB's ESA web page.

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