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Claiming the old types of 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. If you’re not sure, check which types of ESA you can claim.

If you can claim the old types of ESA, you might be able to get:

  • 'income-related' ESA – if you have no income or a low income
  • 'contribution-based' ESA – if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions

You only have to make 1 application for the old types of ESA. When you apply, the DWP will check if you can get 1 or both types.

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 claim for ESA, you’ll usually get your first 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 can’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 straight away 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 at home

If you live with a partner

If you and your partner can both claim contribution-based ESA, you should make separate claims. You can check which types of ESA you can claim.

Only 1 of you can get income-related ESA – the other partner will be included in the claim.

If you and your partner can both claim income-related ESA, you can choose which of you will claim. It’s usually best for the more seriously ill partner to make the claim. They’re more likely to:

  • find it easier to show they have limited capability for work
  • get more money

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 the old types of ESA

Because of coronavirus, you have to apply for the old types of ESA by phone.

Call Jobcentre Plus to apply. You’ll need:

When the DWP ask what date you want to claim ESA from, say the date when you first had limited capability for work. You’ll need to give the DWP a fit note from that date.

Jobcentre Plus

Telephone: 0800 169 0350
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0350
Welsh language telephone: 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

After you've applied

The DWP will 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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