Claiming new style ESA
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 or quarantining
You don’t need a fit note to show you’ve got limited capability for work if you’re either:
self-isolating because of coronavirus
quarantining because you’ve returned to the UK from abroad
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:
- your National Insurance number - check where to find your National Insurance number at GOV.UK
- your bank or building society account number and sort code - if you don’t have a bank account you can use the payment exception service on GOV.UK
- your GP’s name, address and telephone number
- details of your income if you’re working
- the date your SSP ends if you’re claiming it
When the form asks what date you want to claim ESA from, put the date when you first had limited capability for work. You’ll need to give the DWP a fit note from that date.
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
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 328 5644
You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.
Video relay - if you use British Sign Language (BSL).
You can find out how to use video relay on YouTube.
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. You might be asked to go to a face-to-face interview at the Jobcentre Plus. Call the Jobcentre Plus if you’re worried about going to an interview in person. The number will be on the interview invitation - or you can look up their contact details on GOV.UK.
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.