Changes to Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)

Benefit change graphic

You should also see the Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) information on the website.

What is Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) and what benefits does it replace?

  • Employment & Support Allowance provides financial help to people who are unable to work because of illness or disability. ESA also provides personalised support to those with illnesses or disabilities who are able to work. It is paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
  • ESA is the benefit that replaces Incapacity Benefit (IB), Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) and Income Support (IS) paid on the grounds of incapacity.
  • The "migration" of claims for IB, SDA, and IS over to ESA started in 2011. The DWP anticipates this migration will be completed in 2014.
  • For all ESA claimants (new ESA claimants as well as those being migrated on to ESA from other benefits), the assessment process is known as the ‘Work Capability Assessment’.
  • Brighton & Hove City Council’s Welfare Rights Team produce a number of benefits factsheets, including ESA which has information on the migration process and guidance for Work Capability Assessments.

What are the new changes from May 2012?

Limiting the duration of certain ESA claims to 365 days

  • If you receive contribution-based Employment & Support Allowance and you are in the Work-Related Activity Group or the assessment phase (ie not in the Support Group) your entitlement period will be limited to a maximum of 365 days.
  • This time-limit does not include any time spent in the Support Group or the time spent in the assessment phase if you are moved from the assessment phase into the Support Group at the start of your claim.
  • The DWP will contact you with more information about what will happen to your claim if you are affected by the time limit.
  • People whose contribution-based Employment & Support Allowance ends may still be able to get income-related Employment and Support Allowance if they are entitled.
  • People in the Support Group and those receiving income-related ESA are unaffected by this time limit.

Ending of the special contribution conditions for people aged between 16 and 20*

  • The special contribution conditions that allowed people aged between 16 and 20 (or under 25 if in education or training at least three months immediately before turning 20) to receive contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance without paying National Insurance contributions is no longer available for new claimants.
  • People already entitled to Employment and Support Allowance on grounds of youth and in the Support Group will continue to receive contribution-based Employment Support Allowance unless their circumstances change.
  • People already entitled to Employment and Support Allowance on grounds of youth and in the Work Related Activity Group will have their benefit time limited to 365 days.

Changes to ESA linking rules*

  • Previously, where a claimant left ESA and started work or training within one month, their benefit would be reinstated at the same rate as previously paid if they returned to Employment & Support Allowance within 104 weeks.
  • To coincide with the changes brought by time-limiting contribution-based Employment & Support Allowance, the 104 week linking rule is abolished. This means if you want to claim Employment & Support Allowance and it is more than 12 weeks since your award of Employment and Support Allowance ended, your claim will not link to your earlier award.

* Crown copyright.

ESA changes & Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction

If you are receiving Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction you should report any changes in your ESA to the council, as changes to your income could affect the amount of Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction you are entitled to. By not reporting changes in your income, you may be missing out on benefit that is due to you, or we may be paying you more benefit than you are entitled to.

Finding out more and seeking advice