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Claiming new style ESA

This advice applies to England

Make sure you’re claiming the right type of ESA

Most people can only make a new claim for new style ESA. Some people should claim the old types of ESA instead. If you’re not sure, check which types of ESA you can claim.

You’ll need to show that your medical condition makes it difficult to work – this is called 'limited capability for work'. If you haven’t already, ask your GP or the doctor who's treating you for proof you’ve got limited capability for work. This is called a 'fit note'. If they won’t give you a fit note, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Coronavirus – if you're self-isolating

You don’t need a fit note to show you’ve got limited capability for work if you’ve got an isolation note.

You can get an isolation note if you or someone you see regularly has symptoms of coronavirus. You can:

If the DWP accepts your ESA claim, you’ll usually get your first ESA payment a few weeks after you apply. You can check how much ESA you’ll get.

The DWP will usually pay up to 3 months ESA to cover time when you had limited capability for work before you applied. This is called 'backdating'.

You won’t usually get ESA to cover the first 7 days you had limited capability for work. These are called ‘waiting days’.

Coronavirus - waiting days

You’ll be paid without waiting days if you:

  • have coronavirus
  • are following guidance to stay home
  • are caring for a child who has coronavirus or who is following guidance to stay home

If you live with a partner

Your partner has no effect on the amount of ESA you’ll get.

If you and your partner can both claim new style ESA, you should make separate claims.

If you’re getting sick pay from your employer

If you’re employed but you can’t work, you’ll usually get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer for 28 weeks – check if you should get SSP.

You can only get ESA when your SSP ends, but you can claim in advance up to 3 months before your SSP ends. You’ll need to ask your employer to fill in form SSP1 – download the form from GOV.UK.

Apply for new style ESA

Because of coronavirus, you have to apply for new style ESA online or by phone.

You’ll need to do this even if you’re on Universal Credit. You can’t apply for ESA through your Universal Credit online account anymore. 

You can apply online for new style ESA on GOV.UK. You’ll be asked some questions first to make sure you’re eligible. If you are, you’ll be asked to fill in an online form. 

When you apply you’ll need:

You’ll need to apply by phone if you’re an ‘appointee’ which means you’re applying on behalf of someone else. If you can’t use online forms you can also apply over the phone. Call the DWP's Universal Credit helpline to apply - select the option for new style ESA.

When you call the DWP they might tell you to claim Universal Credit too - you don’t need to do this to claim new style ESA. If you want to understand what benefits you can get before you call the DWP you can use a benefits calculator.

Don’t feel pressured by the DWP into applying for something you’re not sure about - if you don’t want to claim Universal Credit tell them you only want to claim new style ESA.

Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

After you've applied

The DWP will contact you by phone or letter to tell you what will happen next. All face to face interviews have been cancelled because of coronavirus. You might still need to have an interview on the phone.

Check the end date on your fit note. Before the end date, get a new fit note from your GP if you need to. You’ll need to keep giving the DWP fit notes until they have fully assessed you.

If your claim is accepted, at some point in the next few months the DWP might ask you to complete a form called the ‘capability for work questionnaire’ or ‘ESA50’. You’ll need to complete this to keep getting ESA – check how to complete the ESA50 form.

If the DWP refuse your claim

The DWP should tell you why your claim was refused. If you think the decision is wrong, you can challenge the decision.

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