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New style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you are ill or have a health condition or disability that limits your ability to work you may be able to get New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

ESA is a fortnightly payment that can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit (UC).

ESA is a contributory benefit. Normally, this means you may be able to get it if you’ve paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the 2 full tax years before the year you’re claiming in.

Your (or your partner’s) savings will not affect how much ESA you’re paid. If your partner works, it does not affect your claim.

Most income is not taken into account (but a personal pension can affect the amount you may receive).

While you receive ESA you’ll earn Class 1 National Insurance credits, which can help towards your State Pension and other contributory benefits in the future.

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Each year all benefits are subject to uprating in April, this means the amounts paid are increased.  Please check

To get New Style ESA you usually need to have been working within the last 2 to 3 years, and have made (or been credited with) Class 1 or Class 2 National insurance Contributions.

This can be through employment or self–employment.

If you are not sure how much National Insurance you’ve pad, you can check online.

You can apply for New Style ESA online

If you cannot apply online call the Universal Credit helpline

Telephone: 0800 328 5644 (choose option 3)
Textphone: 0800 328 1344 (choose option 3)

Relay UK (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 328 5644

Video relay service for British Sign Language (BSL) users

A ‘Work Capability Assessment’ is used to find out if your illness or disability affects how much you can work.

You might not need one, for example if you’re in hospital or you have a terminal illness.

If you need a Work Capability Assessment, you’ll get a letter telling you what to do.

You must fill in the ‘Capability for work questionnaire’ and send it to the Health Assessment Advisory Service. The address is on the form. 

You’ll be told what happens next, for example if you need an appointment to understand your health condition better.

If you’re claiming both Universal Credit and New Style ESA, you’ll only have one Work Capability Assessment.

You can ask for your assessment to be recorded. Tell DWP when you’re arranging your assessment.

If you’re entitled to New Style ESA you’ll be placed in one of 2 groups:

  • a work-related activity group (you cannot work now, but can prepare to work in the future, for example by writing a CV)
  • a support group (you cannot work now and you’re not expected to prepare for work in the future)

DWP will contact you to let you know what happens next.

New Style ESA lasts for 365 days if you’re in the work-related activity group.

There’s no time limit if you’re in the support group.

To keep getting ESA you must report any change in your circumstances. You may also need to send fit notes regularly.

Further information is available online at

Last updated: 11/08/2020