Introduction to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
What is ESA?
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) can help when your mental health makes you too ill to work. If awarded, ESA provides financial support for anyone whose illness or disability limits their ability to work.
- Money to help with your living costs if you are unable to work
- Support to work again if you are able
There are two types of ESA:
- Income-related ESA (this is being replaced with Universal Credit)
- New Style ESA
What is new style ESA?
New Style ESA is a contributory benefit. This means you have paid money towards it through National Insurance (NI) contributions you make during employment, or through National Insurance (NI) credits you have received. You may get new style ESA if you have paid or been credited with enough NI contributions for the 2 full tax years before you make an ESA claim.
The UK tax year usually begins and ends in April.
• The 2022/2023 tax year begins on 6th April 2022 and ends on 5th April 2023
How Laura qualified for new style ESA
Laura is a qualified nurse and has worked at her local hospital for over 3 years with no gaps in employment. Laura has severe depression. Her mental health condition has made her too ill to work. She has used up all of her statutory sick pay (SSP) allowance.
Laura has paid NI contributions and income tax all the time she has worked in the hospital.
Under these circumstances, Laura can apply for new style ESA.
Can I claim ESA for mental health?
If your mental health is making you too ill to work, then you may be able to claim ESA. Income-related ESA is being replaced with Universal Credit (UC) so all new ESA claims will be for ‘new style’ ESA.
How Rahul claimed ESA for his mental health
Rahul works as a Marketing Manager for a major digital technology company. He has Bulimia Nervosa. Rahul is afraid he will lose his job if people find out about his mental health condition, so he hides it from his colleagues and family.
Rahul eats a lot of food and often makes himself vomit to prevent weight gain. When Rahul can’t vomit, he sometimes over-exercises. Rahul has received treatment for his mental health condition but has become too ill to work. He has also used his statutory sick pay allowance.
Rahul has been in work for over 4 years. He and his partner have been saving for a house deposit and between them have a savings total of £20,000. Rahul has also paid National Insurance (NI) contributions in the last 2 tax years as an employee for his company.
Under these circumstances, Rahul can claim ‘new style’ ESA to help support himself.
How much ESA will I get?
How much ESA you get will depend on the following things:
- What stage your ESA application is at
- How old you are
- Whether you can get back into work
When you apply for new style ESA you will be placed on an assessment rate until your claim is processed. The assessment rate period should last up to 13 weeks but has been regularly running over 13 weeks.
ESA Assessment Periods
If you are concerned that your claim is taking too long to process, please contact a Welfare and Benefits advisor for help. You can find advisors for free using Citizens Advice.
ESA Assessment rates per week (2022-2023)
- Aged under 25 - up to £61.05 a week
- Aged 25 or over – up to £77.00 a week
When your ESA claim is processed, you will be placed into 1 of 2 groups:
- Group 1: Group – also known as Limited Capability for Work Group (LCW)
- Group 2: Support Related Activity Group – also known as Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity Group (LCWRA)
You will be placed into Group 1 (LCW) if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) determine you will be able to work in the future.
You will be placed into Group 2 (LCWRA) if the DWP determine your mental health condition severely limits what you can do.
Post assessment ESA rates per week:
Up to £91.65 - Group 1: Work-Related Activity Group (LCW)
Up to £117.60 - Group 2: Support Related Activity Group (LCWRA)