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Claiming ESA (filling in the ESA1 form)

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

How long it takes to claim ESA

Applying for ESA takes quite a long time as there are several stages in the process.

Getting money straight away

If this is the first time you’ve applied for ESA, you’ll get some money straight away if you’re likely to be eligible for ESA when you first apply. You’ll have to send a sicknote from your GP with your claim form to show that you’re not fit for work. Even if the ESA Centre eventually decides you won’t get ESA, you won’t have to pay that money back.

You should get the first payment into your bank or building society account within 3 weeks.

If you're getting statutory sick pay

If you’re getting Statutory Sick Pay, you can fill in the ESA claim form up to 3 months before it's due to finish. This will help you get your ESA money quicker. You’ll need to get your employer to fill in form SSP1.

Download the SSP1 form

How to claim ESA

There are 3 stages to applying for ESA:

  1. Fill in the claim form (called ESA1) - everyone has to do this.
  2. Complete a questionnaire about your health and abilities (called ESA50) - most people have to do this.
  3. Go to a medical assessment with a healthcare practitioner - most people have to do this.

There can be a gap of several weeks, sometimes longer, between each stage of the process.

Warning

If you don’t return your ESA50 form or attend your medical assessment, you’ll be considered fit for work. You won’t be able to make another claim for ESA unless you have a different or deteriorating condition.

Fill in the claim form (ESA1)

You can start your ESA claim:

You can’t send your claim online.

Most people apply on the phone - you can get your first ESA payment more quickly if you apply this way. The phone call usually lasts between 20 and 30 minutes.

Information you need to hand

Whichever way you apply, you’ll need to provide information including:

  • your National Insurance number
  • what your illness or disability is
  • your doctor’s contact details
  • work you’re doing or details of benefits that you get
  • rent or mortgage details for where you live
  • any savings or investments you’ve got, or other money coming in (like benefits or child maintenance)
  • bank account details for where you want ESA paid

Worth remembering

You could be entitled to either or both contribution-based ESA and income-related ESA. If you could be eligible for both, make sure you fill in both parts of the ESA claim form giving your details and those of your partner (if you have a partner), so that you can be considered for both parts of ESA.

I want to apply by phone

ESA phone number for new claims

ESA helpline
Telephone: 0800 085 6318
Textphone: 0800 328 3419

Open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm except Thursday, when they are open 10.00am to 5.00pm.

After your phone call

The ESA Centre will send you a statement confirming all the details you’ve given them. You only need to contact them if you spot anything that needs to be changed. To ring them about changes or any other enquiries, call 0845 602 7301 or 0300 123 3012.

They’ll also send you a pre-paid envelope for you to send back any other documents that they’ve asked for, eg medical certificates, savings account statements. You must send back anything they’ve asked for within a month of calling them. If you don’t, your claim will be stopped and you’ll need to start the application process again. Keep copies for yourself and send by recorded delivery if you can.

If you’ve missed or are about to miss your deadline, contact your local Citizens Advice. They might be able to help you if the form’s late for what is considered a good reason, eg if you've been ill or your doctor’s been unavailable.

Get confirmation your documents have arrived

Put your mobile phone number on the top right-hand corner of your fit note when you send it to the ESA centre. If you do, they’ll text you to confirm they’ve got it.

I want to apply by post

Get the claim form

You can download a copy of the ESA1 form.

Or you can phone and ask for a copy of the form to be posted to you. If you phone to ask for a form, you must send it back within a month of your original phone call.

ESA helpline
Telephone: 0800 085 6318
Textphone: 0800 328 3419

Open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm except Thursday, when they are open 10.00am to 5.00pm.

Send the claim form

The form tells you what other documents you need to send. There’s a checklist in Part 24 so you can make sure you’ve included everything you need to.

Send the form and as many of the documents as you have straight away. If you're waiting to get other important documents from, for example, other healthcare professionals, you can send these as you get them.

You have up to a month after the ESA Centre gets your form to send any other documents they ask for. If you miss this deadline, your application will be cancelled and you’ll have to start again.

If you’ve missed or are about to miss your deadline, contact your local Citizens Advice. They might be able to help you if the form’s late for what is considered a good reason, eg if you've been ill or your doctor’s been unavailable.

Get confirmation your documents have arrived

Put your mobile phone number on the top right-hand corner of your fit note when you send it to the ESA centre. If you do, they’ll text you to confirm they’ve got it.

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