Your money and benefits during an ESA reconsideration
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 ESA50 form
If you're challenging the Department for Communities's (DfC's) decision to put you in the work-related activity group instead of the support 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 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 your local Jobs and Benefits Office (JBO) 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 (IS) 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 JBO that you’re able and willing to look for work, otherwise you won’t get any JSA.
If your condition or a disability means you can only work or look for work a limited number of hours each week, you can try and agree this with the JBO.
If you're a carer or a 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 JBO every 2 weeks. The money you get for IS is the same as you get for JSA.
Claiming Universal Credit
If you live in a Universal Credit area, you’ll have to claim Universal Credit instead of JSA or Income Support. 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 ESA.
If the DfC decides to give you ESA
Your ESA payments will start from the date the DfC decides you can get ESA.
The DfC should arrange for your ESA payments to start and your JSA or Income Support claim to end, but it's worth contacting the ESA Centre to make sure both these things have happened.
If your JSA or IS payments during the reconsideration were less than what you would have got on ESA, you should be paid back the extra amount once your ESA payments re-start.
If the DfC doesn't change its decision
If the DfC doesn’t change its decision, you can either:
- carry on claiming JSA
- appeal the decision to an independent tribunal.
If you appeal, you can go back onto ESA. This will not happen automatically. You will continue to be paid JSA or IS unless you contact the DfC to ask for your ESA to be reinstated. You'll have to continue to provide fit notes.
You won’t be able to claim ESA during the appeal if the reason that you were found fit to work was because you didn’t return the ESA50 form or attend the medical assessment.
If you don't get any ESA payments during the appeal, you can continue to claim JSA or IS 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 DfC made their first decision
- you have a new condition since the DfC made their first decision
- the DfC 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
Extra help you can get
- find out if food banks and other help might be available locally
- find out if you can get more money to cover your bills
- ask a charity - the Turn2us website tells you about charities that might be able to help you
- talk to an adviser at Citizens Advice to find out what other help is available in your area
How Housing Benefit will be affected
The DfC will notify the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) when your ESA stops.
You should get in touch with your Housing Benefit office to explain why your ESA has stopped and to discuss your change of circumstances. You can report your change of circumstances online, by phone or by letter. The contact details are on the NIHE website at www.nihe.gov.uk.
If you tell the NIHE that you are going to claim JSA instead there should be no break in your Housing Benefit.