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Check if you can claim ESA

This advice applies to Scotland

You might be able to get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you have difficulty working because you’re sick or disabled. This is called having 'limited capability for work'.

You can get ESA at the same time as other benefits like Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Adult Disability Payment.

You can’t usually get ESA at the same time as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Income Support.

If you’re employed but you can’t work, you’ll usually get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer for 28 weeks. You can’t get SSP and ESA at the same time, but you can start your ESA claim up to 3 months before your SSP ends. It’s worth claiming ESA early so your payments start as soon as possible.

You can get ESA if you’re self-employed - the application process is the same.

To claim ESA you must:

  • be aged 16 or over
  • live in England, Wales or Scotland

You can only do a limited amount of work while you get ESA – check what work you can do while getting ESA.

If you’ve been told to claim Universal Credit by a certain date

The Department for Work and Pensions are stopping some people’s benefits and telling them to claim Universal Credit instead.

If you get a letter telling you to claim Universal Credit by a certain deadline, this is a ‘migration notice’. You should claim Universal Credit by the deadline in the migration notice. Your old benefits will stop after the deadline.

You might miss out on some money if you apply after the deadline. 

Check what you should do if you get a migration notice.

Check what type of ESA you can claim

The type of ESA that most people can claim is called 'new style' ESA.

There are 2 old types of ESA, which some people are still getting - they’re called ‘income-based ESA’ and ‘contribution-based ESA’.

If you’re already getting contribution-based ESA, you might be able to add income-based ESA to it. This could mean you’ll get more money.

You can't make a new claim for contribution-based ESA.

If you’ve been getting a severe disability premium (SDP), you can apply for new style ESA.

If you should have been getting an SDP but it’s not included in your benefits, talk to an adviser.

If you got a severe disability premium (SDP)

If you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with a severe disability premium (SDP), you can claim new-style ESA or Universal Credit. You might be able to get both at the same time.

You might get an extra amount in your Universal Credit - this is called the ‘transitional element’.

You’ll get the extra amount if you apply for Universal Credit within a month after you stop getting the benefit with the SDP.

You can’t get the extra amount if you: 

  • were only getting the SDP with Housing Benefit

  • move in with a partner who is claiming Universal Credit

Before 27 January 2021, you couldn’t claim Universal Credit if you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with an SDP.

If you applied for Universal Credit before 27 January 2021, talk to an adviser to check what you’re entitled to.

Check if you can claim new style ESA

You usually need to have met National Insurance conditions for 2 tax years – in 2024 the tax years are 2021-22 and 2022-23.

You can check your National Insurance record on GOV.UK. It will say if you have a 'full year' of contributions, and if this comes from employment, self-employment or National Insurance credits.

You might have got National Insurance credits to fill gaps in your payments. For example, if you were getting benefits because you weren’t working or were ill.

You'll meet the National Insurance conditions if you have either:

  • full years of contributions from employment or self-employment for both tax years
  • 1 full year of contributions from employment or self-employment and the other full year from National Insurance credits

If you don’t think you meet the National Insurance conditions or you can’t check your National Insurance record, you should still apply for new style ESA. You might meet the National Insurance conditions in other situations. The DWP will check your National Insurance record as part of your application.

Even if you don’t qualify for new style ESA, you might still get National Insurance credits if you have limited capability for work. These National Insurance credits might help you qualify for ESA in the future. They also count as contributions for your State Pension.

You can also get help from an adviser.

If you paid national insurance contributions in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

You might qualify for new style ESA, even if you haven’t made enough contributions in the UK. The rules are complicated - talk to an adviser before you apply.

If you and your partner can both claim new style ESA, you should make separate claims.

Apply for new style ESA

If you’re eligible for new style ESA, you’ll usually have to apply online.

Find out how to claim new style ESA.

If you’re already getting contribution-based ESA, you might be able to add income-related ESA if you’re eligible for it.

To get income-related ESA:

  • you must have no income or a low income
  • you must have less than £16,000 in savings

If you live with a partner, the DWP will add your income and savings together.

If you’re in full-time education, you can only get income-related ESA if you also get:

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Child Disability Payment
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Adult Disability Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment.

If you’re not a UK citizen

You can only get income-related ESA if your immigration status lets you claim public funds. In some situations you also need a ‘right to reside’.

You can claim public funds if you have any of the following:

  • British or Irish citizenship
  • settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme
  • indefinite leave - unless you came to the UK on an adult dependent relative visa
  • refugee status or humanitarian protection
  • right of abode

If you have pre-settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme, you can claim public funds - but you also need to show you have a right to reside to get income-related ESA. Check if you have a right to reside.

If you’ve applied to the EU Settlement Scheme and you’re waiting for a decision,  you can claim public funds - but you also need to show you have a right to reside to get income-related ESA. Check if you have a right to reside.

If you have any other immigration status, check if your immigration status lets you claim public funds.

To add income-related ESA you shouldn’t make a new claim - you should ask the DWP for a 'supersession' of the claim. You can ask for your claim to be superseded by either:

  • writing to the address on your ESA letters
  • calling the Jobcentre Plus

Jobcentre Plus

Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314

Welsh language: 0800 328 1744

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 169 0310

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Video relay - if you use British Sign Language (BSL).  

You can find out how to use video relay on YouTube.

Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm

If you’re struggling with living costs

You can check what benefits and extra help you can get.

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