ESA stands for employment and support allowance, the benefit which has replaced incapacity benefit. ESA is a much harder benefit to claim than incapacity benefit, primarily because the medical test – the work capability assessment - is very much harsher.

What is ESA: assessment phase?

The assessment phase of ESA is supposed to last for 13 weeks, but for many claimants it lasts a lot longer. In the assessment phase, you are likely to be sent an ESA50 limited capability for work questionnaire and may have to attend a medical.

In May 2021 the DWP announced that assessments would be carried out either over the phone, by video or on the papers.  Only if it was not possible to do this for a person would there be a face-to-face assessment.  The assessment provider that is due to carry out the assessment should contact you to tell you what will happen next. The assessment will either be a paper based one, or carried out over the phone.

If you are awarded ESA on the grounds of terminal illness, you will automatically be placed in the support group from the outset of your claim. At the end of the assessment phase, a decision will be made about whether you are eligible for ESA and, if so, which group you will be put in.

What is ESA: main phase?

Once you have completed the assessment phase, provided you were not found capable of work, you will enter the main phase of ESA. In the main phase, you will either be in the work-related activity group or the support group. You will receive more money, but only if you claimed before 3/4/2017 and were placed in the work-related activity group. If you claimed after this date and were placed in work-related activity group, you will not be paid the extra component and will continue to be paid at the assessment rate. You will be subject to regular reassessment to see if you still qualify.

What is ESA: support group?

The ESA support group is for people who are judged to be unable to work or even to attend interviews intended to help sick and disabled people move into work. Claimants in the support group get more money than ESA claimants in the work-related activity group.

What is ESA: work-related activity group?

The ESA work-related activity group is for claimants who are considered not well enough to work at the moment but who the DWP believes could move into work if given enough support. Claimants in the work-related activity group have to attend a series of work-focused interviews.

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