Fitting the pieces together

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ESA is paid to people aged between 16 and state pension age, whose ability to work is limited by either disability or ill health and who are not receiving statutory sick pay.  

There are two types of ESA, with slightly different rules;

contributory which an individual can receive if they have paid enough national insurance contributions,  and

income-related which they can receive if their income and capital are low.  

Eligibility for either type of ESA is decided by a “Work Capability Assessment”.  This looks at how a health condition or impairment affects an individual’s ability to carry out a range of everyday activities, not what their health condition or impairment is.   It is usually conducted face-to-face with an assessor, has two parts.  

The first part is to determine whether an individual is “fit for work”, based on  how they perform ten types of physical activity, and seven  types of mental, cognitive and intellectual activity.  It is not an assessment about a particular real job and it ignores things like transport, working hours and so on.  If an individual is assessed as “fit for work”, they are not eligible for ESA, and may apply for Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).

Those who are not fit for work, are assessed in the second part of the ESA test (which largely uses the same physical and mental activity, to determine whether the are  placed in a Work-Related Activity Group (and must meet work related conditions including work-focused interviews), or in a Support Group (where they do not have to undertake these activities).

The allocated group determines the amount of ESA awarded, and any time limits.

Within limits, it is possible to do some “Permitted Work” while claiming ESA. Claimants must tell the Department of Work and Pension (DWP) if they start doing permitted work. DWP will send them form PW1 to fill in and send back.  Claimants who get ESA, may also do voluntary work for someone other than a close relative.  Again, this  should be reported to DWP

Further information (or see sites at the head of  Benefits pages)