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About the ESA support group and work-related activity group

This advice applies to Scotland

If you’re eligible for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) you’ll be put into either:

  • the support group
  • the work-related activity group

You'll get a decision letter from from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) telling you which group you’ve been put into. The DWP will make this decision based on the information you put on your ESA50 form and the results of the medical assessment.

If you think you’ve been put into the wrong group

You can ask the DWP to re-think their decision. This is called ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

The support group

If you’ve been put in the support group, it means the DWP has decided that you can’t work and that it doesn’t expect you to do anything to improve your chances of finding work.

However, if you’re in this group and decide that you want to take part in work-related activity anyway, you can do. Use the contact details on your decision letter to let the DWP know you want to do this. They’ll let you know if there’s any suitable work-related activity going on in your area that you can join.

If you’ve been put into the work-related activity group it means the DWP has decided that your disability or health condition does limit your ability to work right now, but that there are things you can do to improve this.

You’re not expected to look for work, but you can be asked to go to a work-focused interview and then do work-related activities. These activities are things that the DWP thinks will improve your chances of working in the future.

You won’t need to go to a work-focused interview or do any work-related activities if:

  • you’re a single parent with a child under one year old
  • you’ve reached Pension Credit age

Work-focused interviews

If you’ve been put into the work-related activity group, you’ll be asked to go to a work-focused interview. This will be with a personal adviser at the Jobcentre.

At the interview, your personal adviser will try to get a better understanding of your situation and your abilities and your limitations. They’ll look at what you can already do, what you might be able to do in future and what help you would need to be able to go to work.

To do this, they’ll want to talk to you about:

  • your work history and qualifications
  • the steps you could take that might help you to eventually be able to work
  • any practical support that will be available to you

While you’re getting ESA in the work-related activity group, you might have to go to more work-focused interviews like this.

If you’re in the work-related activity group, you’ll be expected to take part in work-related activity unless:

  • you’re a single parent with a child under one year old
  • you’re a carer getting Carer’s Allowance or a carer premium as part of your ESA claim
  • you’re a single parent with a child under 3 - if you’re a single parent with a child between 3 and 13, you will have to do work-related activities, but only during normal school hours
  • you’ve reached Pension Credit age

Warning: Your ESA can be reduced temporarily (called a sanction) if you miss a work-focused interview or an agreed work-related activity.

If you need to miss an interview or activity for a good reason (for example, you’re very sick or are in hospital) tell your adviser as soon as you can.

The work-related activity you’ll be asked to do depends on what’s available in your area. It could be something like:

  • basic skills for maths or writing
  • confidence-building sessions
  • learning how to produce a CV
  • new ways to manage your condition or disability

The activities are all things that the DWP thinks will help you to eventually get into work.

Is the activity appropriate for someone with your disability or health condition?

If you have a long-term physical disability, illness or mental health problem, the work-related activities you’re expected to do should be adjusted to account for this - these are called ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Your personal adviser should talk to you about what is manageable for you in your circumstances, eg if you’re a wheelchair user you might only be able to attend training venues that have wheelchair access. This should make your work-related activities more manageable for you.

If you don’t feel this happens, or you’re pressured into agreeing to carry out activities that aren’t realistic for you, you it could be discrimination. You can make a complaint. You can go to your local Citizens Advice for help with this.

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