The United Kingdom’s program to provide financial assistance to those who are less able or unable to work due to issues of ill health or disability is called “Employment and Support Allowance” (ESA). The ESA program replaced the “Incapacity Benefit” and “Income Support” programs in 2008. In theory, it is believed ESA is less subject to fraud and abuse than the earlier programs.
In order to be eligible to receive ESA benefits, there are multiple conditions that an applicant must meet:
1. Be at least 16 years old.
2. Be less than pensionable age.
Pensionable age is 65 for men, 60 for women, gradually adjusting to where by 2020 it will be 65 for both men and women.
3. Complete an initial assessment phase.
The assessment phase generally lasts 13 weeks, though in some cases it can take longer.
During this phase, the applicant must be assessed for work capability by a health care professional working on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. A point system is used based on the applicant’s demonstrated ability on various physical and mental tests. An assessment is made of what jobs might fit the applicant’s limited capacity, as well as what health care interventions might improve the applicant’s ability to work.
Also during this phase, the applicant must attend an interview with a personal advisor assigned to their case, to discuss work prospects, what steps the applicant is willing to take to find work suited to their capacities, and what support is available to help in finding work.
4. Have made sufficient contributions to the system.
The applicant must have paid National Insurance contributions above certain specified amounts in past tax years.
This requirement is waived for those under 20 years old, or those under 25 years old who have been in education or training instead of working.
5. Have sufficiently low means to need support.
If the applicant’s income or net worth are above certain levels, they are not eligible for ESA benefits, or can get only reduced ESA benefits.
If the applicant is part of a couple, the calculations are based on the income and net worth of the couple.
You may find out more and apply for ESA benefits in the following ways:
Telephone: 0800 0 55 66 88
Textphone: 0800 0 23 48 88 (i)
Welsh language telephone: 0800 0 12 18 88
Pick up a claim form in person from a local Department for Work and Pensions office, or a local Jobcentre Plus office.
Download a claim form from www.direct.gov.uk
Make an online claim at www.dwp.gov.uk/eservice/
“Disability Alliance Factsheet.” DisabilityAlliance.org
“Employment Support Allowance.” Department for Work and Pensions.