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About your health condition, illnesses or disabilities

This advice applies to England


You have a chance to say more about your illness or disability when you send back your capability for work questionnaire (ESA50 form).

This question is on page 6 of the form - see what it looks like

ESA50 page 6

What to write

You should:

  • make a list of your health problems, illnesses and disabilities - even if you didn’t have them when you first made your ESA claim
  • say when they started (try to estimate the month and the year)
  • say when you were diagnosed (if you have a diagnosis)
  • include health problems, illnesses and disabilities even if you don't have a diagnosis or proof from a doctor 

Check if you automatically have limited capability for work

If you automatically have limited capability for work (LCW), you won’t have to go to a medical assessment after you send the form. You’ll need to write on the form that you ‘should be treated as having limited capability for work’.

You automatically have LCW if you:

  • have less than 6 months left to live
  • can’t work because you’ve been in contact with some types of infection or contamination - including coronavirus
  • are an ‘in-patient’ in hospital or rehab for at least 24 hours - or you’re recovering from your stay
  • are having plasma exchange treatment
  • are having weekly dialysis for chronic kidney failure

You might automatically have LCW if you have cancer and your treatment includes chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

You might also automatically have LCW if you:

  • find it hard to eat or drink
  • are pregnant or have recently given birth

If you find it hard to eat or drink

It doesn’t matter why you need help to eat or drink. For example, you might forget to eat or find eating painful or stressful.

You’ll automatically have LCW if any of these things are true:

  • eating or drinking hurts or makes you breathless
  • you have to stop and rest several times whenever you eat or drink
  • you need someone to prompt you to eat, or while you’re eating
  • you need someone to help you eat or drink

If you’re pregnant or you’ve recently given birth

If you’re pregnant, you’ll automatically have LCW if any of these apply to you:

  • there’s a serious risk to you or your baby if you work
  • you get Maternity Allowance
  • your due date is in the next 6 weeks and you can’t get Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance

If you’ve given birth in the last 2 weeks, you’ll automatically have LCW if you can’t get Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance.

Describe how your situation affects you

It’s also a good idea to write on the form:

  • about anything you can’t do that you could do before, for example you used to go jogging but now you can’t
  • how medication affects you, for example whether it’s given you any side effects
  • whether you had to give up work because of your health, and why (for example you can't predict when you’ll feel ill, so your employer couldn't plan your shifts)
  • about your good and bad days, for example if you find it difficult to cope 4 days out of 7 - you have 3 good days a week but the other days are written off as you need to just rest

You should also explain if there’s a risk that your health, or someone else’s health, might get worse if you:

If the DWP agree there’s a serious risk, they might decide you can get ESA or that you don’t have to do work-related activity - even if you don’t get enough points from the form.

You’ll need to show the risk is because of your illness or disability. For example, your anxiety or depression might get much worse if you didn’t get ESA and had to look for jobs.

You’ll also need to show you can’t reduce the risk with medication or changes at work - like taking regular breaks or your employer buying new equipment.
If the risk is from not getting ESA, say: “this falls within the exceptional circumstances of regulation 29.”

If the risk is from having to do work-related activity, say: “this falls within the exceptional circumstances of regulation 35.”

How your condition varies over time

It’s really important to tell the DWP how your illness or disability varies over time.

If your illness or disability usually follows a pattern (for example you’re bipolar, and you have a cycle of highs and lows that change weekly), you should write this down.

If your patterns are unpredictable, it can be difficult to explain. You could write something like this in the ‘additional information’ box under each question:

“I will explain how my condition affects me day to day under each question in the rest of the form.”

If your condition is linked to drugs or alcohol

If any of your illnesses or disabilities are linked to problems with alcohol or drugs it’s important to write this down.

You should write down what help or treatment you’re getting. If you’re waiting for a referral, or you haven't been offered any help you should say so.

Aids you use

You should write down if you use things like:

  • a walking stick or walking frame
  • grab rails in the bath - say when you had them fitted
  • a wheelchair
  • hearing aids
  • a raised toilet seat
  • visual aids
  • any equipment to help you get dressed

Next steps

Your medication and treatment

Back to Help filling in your ESA form

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