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Your money and benefits during an ESA reconsideration

This advice applies to England

You won't get any ESA payments while you're asking for a mandatory reconsideration if you were told you couldn't get ESA because:

  • you didn't score enough points at your medical
  • you didn't go to your medical
  • you didn't return the capability for work questionnaire (ESA50 form)

If you're challenging the DWP's decision to put you in the work-related activity group, you'll continue to be paid ESA with the work-related component while you're challenging that decision - but only if your claim was made before 3 April 2017.

If you get support for mortgage interest (SMI), your SMI payments will stop while you ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

If you don't get any ESA payments during the reconsideration, you might be able to get other money to help with your living costs.

If you’ve been sanctioned

Contact the Jobcentre to ask for a ‘hardship payment’ if you need help with essentials like food, clothing and heating.

Claiming other benefits during a reconsideration

You might be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Income Support while waiting for a decision on your mandatory reconsideration. Claiming these benefits during a mandatory reconsideration shouldn't affect your ESA reconsideration request. Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you're not sure whether to claim other benefits.

Claiming Jobseeker's Allowance

You'll need to meet the usual eligibility rules to claim JSA, for example you'll need to be actively looking for work.

You should tell the Jobcentre that you're able and willing to look for work, otherwise you won't get any JSA.

If your condition or disability means you can only work or look for work a limited number of hours each week, you can try to agree this with the Jobcentre.

If you're a carer or single parent with a child under 5

You could apply for Income Support instead of JSA. This'll normally be better for you if you have caring responsibilities and don't want to look for work or sign on at the Jobcentre every 2 weeks. The money you get for Income Support is the same as JSA.

Claiming Universal Credit

You can claim Universal Credit instead of ESA if you live in an area where Universal Credit is fully available - called a 'full service' area. Claiming Universal Credit might leave you worse off and you won't be able to go back onto ESA, even if your mandatory reconsideration or appeal is successful. An adviser can calculate which benefit would leave you better off - contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.

Check whether you're in a full service Universal Credit area.

If the DWP decide to give you ESA

Your ESA payments will start from the date the DWP decide you can get ESA.
The DWP should arrange for your ESA payments to start and your JSA or Income Support claim to end, but it's worth contacting the DWP to make sure both these things have happened.

If your JSA or Income Support payments during the reconsideration were less than what you would have got on ESA, you should be paid the extra amount once your ESA payments re-start.

If the DWP doesn't change its decision

If the DWP doesn't change its decision, you can appeal the decision to an independent tribunal.

You can be paid ESA until the appeal is heard - this isn’t the same as making a new claim. You should be paid automatically, but you may need to ask the Jobcentre Plus. You will only get paid if:

  • the Tribunal has told you it’s got your appeal
  • this is the first time the DWP has decided that you’re fit for work, or the first time since the DWP decided that you have limited capability for work
  • you give the Jobcentre ‘fit notes’ from your doctor - you can find out more about fit notes on GOV.UK

If your GP stops giving you fit notes, tell them that you’re appealing. You can show them page 9 of The benefits system: a short guide for GPs on GOV.UK, which says they can still give you fit notes. If that doesn’t help, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Your ESA won't be paid during your appeal if you claimed another benefit during the reconsideration. Instead you'll stay on the other benefit. But you can contact the DWP and ask them to pay you ESA instead. You won't need to start a new claim for ESA. 

If you're appealing the decision that you're fit to work because you didn't return the capability for work questionnaire or attend the medical assessment, you won't get any ESA during the appeal.

If you don't get any ESA payments during the appeal, you can continue to claim JSA or Income Support until you get the outcome of your appeal.

You might be able to make a new claim for ESA while appealing if:

  • your condition has significantly worsened since the DWP made their first decision
  • you have a new condition since the DWP made their first decision
  • the DWP made their first decision more than 6 months ago

If you want to make a new claim for ESA, get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Claiming Universal Credit

If you live in a full service Universal Credit area, you’ll have to claim Universal Credit instead of making a new claim for income-related ESA. You should get help from your nearest Citizens Advice before claiming Universal Credit. You could get less money and you won’t be able to go back onto income-related ESA. Check whether you’re eligible to claim ESA or Universal Credit.

Extra help you can get

You can:

How Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction will be affected

These benefits are paid by your local council, to help with paying your rent and council tax.

You can continue to get these benefits even if your ESA stops. However, if your ESA stops, the DWP will usually tell the council and the council may stop your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction. This is because they may think you’ve got other income now, for example that you may have started a job.

You should get in touch with the council straight away and explain why your ESA has stopped and that you’ve asked for a reconsideration.

Tell the council about the money you’re living on now. For example, you get help from friends or family or you go to a foodbank. They may need you to send them proof of this, for example your bank statements and a letter explaining your circumstances.

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