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Changes to contributory Employment and Support Allowance

If you want to speak to someone about changes to benefits, you can phone the independent welfare changes helpline for free on 0808 802 0020 or contact your local Citizens Advice.

From 31 October you may be affected if you're getting contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This page explains the change in the rules and the help you may get.

What may change

If you're in the Work-related Activity Group, you will only be able to get contribution-based ESA for a maximum period of 365 days. Time spent in the Work-related Activity Group before the change in the law counts towards the 365 days, so if you've already been getting it for 365 days and you are in this group, your contribution-based ESA will stop immediately. The days you spent being assessed before you were put in this group will also count towards the 365 day time-limit, as will days when you are appealing a decision.

You won't be affected if you're in the Support Group.

ESA in youth

Some young people were able to get contribution-based ESA without having paid any National Insurance contributions. From February 2016 you cannot make a new claim for ESA in youth.

What can you get instead?

If your contribution-based ESA stops because of the time limit, you may be able to get:

  • income-related ESA. This will depend on your income and savings, and any income and savings of your partner, if you have one. If you were getting both contribution-based ESA and income-related ESA, you will get more income-related ESA to replace the contribution-based part.
  • national insurance credits if you continue to have limited capability for work. It is important to carry on getting national insurance credits if you can, because they may help you to qualify for other benefits such as state pension, or to requalify for ESA if your condition deteriorates.
  • a supplementary payment for up to a year to fully compensate for any loss of ESA, provided that you continue to qualify for the work related activity group.
  • other means-tested benefits, such as housing benefit, housing benefit for rates or tax credits or an increase in these benefits if you are already claiming them.

Do you need to do anything?

If the ESA Centre thinks you may be affected by this change they will contact you, telling you what's happening and asking if you want to be considered for income-related ESA.

You'll have to provide details of your and your partner's income and savings promptly, so that the ESA Centre can transfer you to income-related ESA straightaway, if you can get it. You won't have to make a new claim for ESA or have more medical assessments because of this change.

If you are eligible for a supplementary payment, you will get a letter to tell you that you are entitled to it. You do not need to apply for it.

Next steps

Other useful information

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