What happens after the ESA assessment?
When your ESA claim is accepted you are placed into 1 of 2 different ESA groups:
- Work-related activity group
- Support group
Your decision letter will tell you which group you are in.
ESA Work-related activity group
This is also known as the Limited Capability for Work (LCW) group. The benefits system is complex and terminology can be confusing.
You are placed into this group if the DWP believe you will be able to work in the future. When you are placed in this group you will be asked to do several things to keep claiming ESA. You will likely be asked to:
Undertake a work-focussed interview
A work coach from your local Jobcentre Plus office will contact you to talk about your situation. Together, you will agree on any work-related activity you should do. The work coach might ask you about:
- Your work history and qualifications
- Reasonable steps you could manage to help you to work in the future
- Any practical support you need to help you work in the future
What is work-related activity?
Work-related activity can include:
Confidence building sessions
If your mental health condition has negatively affected your confidence and you receive ongoing treatment you should tell your work coach immediately
Your work coach may arrange for you to have help in learning to write a CV. A CV can help you find work in the future and build confidence in your own abilities.
Help with mathematics and writing
Your work coach may arrange for you to undertake some training to help you improve your maths and writing skills. This can help to build confidence in your own abilities. If you have a mental health condition that affects your ability to write or solve simple math problems, you should tell your work coach immediately.
Help with finding other ways to manage your mental health condition (sometimes called ‘Condition Management Programmes’)
Your work coach may suggest you try different things to manage your mental health condition. This could be:
- New activities
- Exercise suggestions to boost your mental health
The work coach will ask you to sign a ‘Claimant Commitment’ once you have agreed to your work-related activities. This is an agreement between you and your work coach on all the activities you will undertake whilst claiming ESA.
If you think you will struggle with any of the activities in the claimant commitment, do not sign it.
Be honest with your work coach. Explain how your mental health will make it hard for you to do work-related activities. You can ask the work coach to think about putting you in another work-related activity group or a support group.
Your work coach must be fair and consider your mental health and suggestions. If they won’t change your claimant commitment, you can ask for another work coach to review their decision. If your condition makes you confused and anxious, you can ask a friend, family member, or support worker to help you.
How a Welfare and Benefits Advisor helped Harry
Harry attends a work-focussed interview with a Work Programme Personal Adviser (work coach) at a local assessment centre. Harry has Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Harry’s disorder means that he binge eats and often eats faster than normal. He feels guilty every time he binges and finds it difficult to concentrate as he has difficulty sleeping. Harry’s mental health condition has made it harder for him to work.
The personal adviser asks Harry what he is willing to do to move into work. Harry feels he is unable to work due to his mental health condition but is too frightened and ashamed to tell the adviser. The personal adviser then makes some suggestions he believes will help support Harry into work. The suggestions include:
- Gym vouchers to help Harry exercise
- Training sessions at the assessment centre on CV writing
- Maths training to build Harry’s confidence in performing simple calculations
The personal adviser asks Harry to sign the Claimant Commitment, but Harry knows he cannot undertake these activities. Harry is frightened and embarrassed, so he signs the claimant commitment. After he leaves the assessment centre, Harry calls his best friend, George. Harry tells George what has happened and how frightened he is of losing his ESA because he knows he cannot do the activities the personal adviser encouraged him to agree to.
George contacts the assessment centre to make another appointment with Harry’s work coach, explaining Harry’s circumstances. George then accompanies Harry to a follow up assessment and explains Harry’s circumstances in person. The personal adviser agrees to change and reduce the number of work-related activities in Harry’s claimant commitment.
Harry’s new claimant commitment better reflects what Harry believes he can do with his mental health condition.
Try to be honest with your work coach. If you find this difficult, you can ask for someone to accompany you to your work-focused interviews. This can be a friend, family member or support worker.
How long can I claim ESA if I am in the work-related group (LCW)?
New style ESA lasts for 1 year (365 days) if you are in the work-related group.
ESA support group
This is also known as the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (LCWRA) group.
You are placed into this group if the DWP believe your mental health condition is so severe, that you cannot work. The DWP don’t expect you to undertake work-related activities when you in the support group. There is no time limit on how long you can claim ESA in this group.
What happens if I am placed into the ESA support group?
If you are placed in the support group, several things are different:
- You will receive higher ESA payments (this is usually from the 14th week of your claim)
- You do not have to attend work-focused interviews
- You do not have to undertake work-related activities
- There is no time limit on how long you can claim ESA in the support group
Can I still take part in work-related activity?
You can choose to take part in work-related activities, but you must let the DWP know you want to do this. You can use the contact details on your decision letter to inform the DWP if you want to take part in work-related activities. The DWP should then let you know of any work-related activities happening in your area that you can participate in.
The DWP can ask you to do another Work Capability Assessment (WCA) if they believe you are capable of doing regular work-related activities.
Your ESA could be reduced if you are placed in the Limited Capability for Work (LCW) group.
How to report a change in circumstances on ESA
You must report any changes in your health, work, and living situation to the DWP.
What is a change in circumstances?
- Moving house
- Your partner or child moves in or out of your home
- Your mental health condition changes
- You change your GP
- You change your name
- You must go into hospital, a care home or sheltered housing
- You travel abroad (eg. go on holiday)
- Changes to benefits you receive (eg. Universal Credit, PIP)
- Changes to benefits other members of your household receive
- Changes to your pension or any savings you have
- Changes to any investments or property you own (eg. you sell your house/buy a new house)
- You start or stop working
- You start or stop training or begin or finish a work apprenticeship
- You begin or finish an academic education course (eg. diploma, university degree)
- There is a change to your immigration status if you are not a UK citizen. (eg. you become a permanent resident)
If you do not report any changes when they happen, your ESA claim may be affected. The DWP can stop or reduce the amount of money you receive if you fail to report a change in circumstance.
How do I report a change of circumstances?
Your decision letter will have the address and telephone number of the Jobcentre Plus office that pays your ESA. Use these details to write or telephone the Jobcentre Plus office to let them know of any changes. It is a good idea to write and call the Jobcentre Plus office.
Try to make copies of any letters you post and make a note of the date you posted them. If you have the money, send any letters by recorded delivery. This will provide you with evidence that you have posted the letter. Also try to make a note of any telephone conversations you have with Jobcentre Plus.
If you are unsure about anything, you can ask a friend, family member or support worker to help you.
What work can I do if I claim ESA?
Permitted work for ESA
There are limitations on how many hours you work and how much you can earn when receiving ESA.
You can claim ESA when working if:
- You work less than 16 hours a week
- You do not earn more than £152 a week (2022-2023)
There are 3 types of permitted work:
- Permitted work – Lower Limit
- You can do any job, but you cannot earn more than £20 a week.
- Permitted work – Higher Limit
- You can do any job, but you cannot earn more than £152 a week after tax and national insurance deductions.
- You cannot work more than 16 hours a week.
- Supported Permitted work
You can work more than 16 hours a week and still claim ESA if:
- The work is supervised by someone employed by the local authority (local council) or a voluntary organisation that arranges work for disabled people (eg. local charity)
- The work is part of a treatment programme supervised by a medical professional.
How Jasmine is able to do Supported Permitted Work
Jasmine has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Jasmine constantly worries that her food is contaminated and experiences thoughts of hurting and killing other people. Jasmine’s mental health condition makes her distressed, anxious, and guilty. Jasmine receives a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure and responsive prevention (ERP) to help her manage her mental health condition.
Jasmine has undergone a work capability assessment. Her work coach believes that she can work more than 16 hours a week for the council’s landscape gardening team. Jasmine is under the medical care of Sona Teesdale, a mental health nurse at Jasmine’s GP practice. Sona is an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP). Sona agrees that Jasmine can work more than 16 hours for the council as part of Jasmine’s mental health treatment programme.
Under these circumstances, Jasmine can still claim ESA.
What can I do if my ESA has stopped?
The DWP can stop your ESA if:
- You didn’t send the Capability for Work (ESA50) questionnaire back on time
- You didn’t attend a Work Capability Assessment
- You went to a Work Capability Assessment and the DWP decided you are able to work
- You didn’t report a change in circumstances
- You have reached the 1-year claim limit in the work-related activity group
If you are still not well enough to work, you should seek advice from a benefits adviser.
You may be able to:
- Move into the support group of ESA
- Apply for other benefits (eg. Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance)
- Challenge the ESA decision if you disagree with it (this is called ‘mandatory reconsideration’)
What can I do if my ESA has a 1-year limit?
If you are in the work-related activity group of ESA, you can only claim ESA for 365 days (1 year). If you are still unable to work after this time, you might be able to move into the support group of ESA or apply for other benefits including:
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Universal Credit (UC)
A welfare and benefits advisor can provide advice and help you decide what to do. You can also challenge an ESA decision.