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Reporting a change while you're on ESA

This advice applies to England

While you’re on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), it's important to tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if there are changes to your:

  • health condition
  • work
  • money
  • family life

Any changes might affect how much ESA you should get or which group you’re placed in.

Telling the DWP about a change

Tell the DWP about any changes by calling Jobcentre Plus.

When you get in touch, they’ll ask for your:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • National Insurance number

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0310
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

If the DWP tells you to move to Universal Credit

If you’re getting income-related or contribution-based ESA and your circumstances change, the DWP might tell you to claim Universal Credit instead.

You should contact your nearest Citizens Advice first. Moving to Universal Credit could mean you’ll be worse off. You also won’t be able to go back onto ESA.

Tell the DWP within 1 month

You should tell the DWP about a change within 1 month of it happening, unless you have a good reason - for example if you:

  • are in hospital
  • are coping with a bereavement
  • have a family emergency

If you have a good reason to tell the DWP late, you have up to 13 months to tell them.

If your ESA payments go up

If a change means your ESA payments will go up, you’ll receive a backdated payment to when the change happened. This will only happen if you tell the DWP on time or have a good reason to tell them late. If you tell them late without a good reason, your payment will change from the date you told them.

If you think your ESA payments will go down

You should still tell the DWP even if you think a change might make your ESA payments go down. You won't save money by reporting it later.

The DWP will backdate the payments to when the change happened, not when you tell them about it. If you tell the DWP late you’ll be paid too much ESA and have to pay it back. This is called an ‘overpayment’. You might also have to pay a penalty. Find out how the DWP deals with overpayments.

Changes you need to report

If you’re not sure whether the DWP needs to know something, it’s best to tell them anyway.

There are some changes you should always tell the DWP about.

If your health condition changes

The DWP needs to know about changes to do with your condition. For example, if it:

  • gets better
  • gets worse
  • changes to another condition

This might affect whether you should be in the support group or the work-related activity group.

If where you're staying changes

The DWP needs to know about any changes to your living arrangements. For example, if you:

  • move house
  • go into or leave hospital, prison or legal custody

If you go abroad

If you’re going abroad for less than 4 weeks, it won’t affect your ESA - but you should still tell the DWP.

If you’re going abroad for 4 weeks or more then you must tell the DWP. If you don’t, your ESA payments could be stopped unless you’re:

  • receiving medical treatment for yourself or your child
  • living with a member of the armed forces

If you’re going abroad for medical treatment, the DWP will tell you how long you can continue to claim ESA for. It could be up to 26 weeks or in some cases there’s no limit to the amount of time you can keep claiming.

If you’re getting income-related ESA, it’s important to tell the DWP if you:

  • start living with someone
  • have someone come to live in your house
  • get married or divorced
  • form or dissolve a civil partnership
  • someone close to you dies - for example your partner or someone you care for

You must also tell the DWP about any changes to the money coming into or going out of your household. This includes money from:

  • benefits
  • pensions
  • work

If you don’t report a change

If you don't tell the DWP about a change even though you know you should, it could be fraud. 

If the DWP says you've committed fraud, you should get legal advice.

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