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Claiming ESA (filling in the ESA1 or NSESAF1 form)

This advice applies to Wales

How long it takes to claim ESA

Applying for ESA can take a long time. From start to finish, it can take several months to get a final decision.

Getting money straight away

If this is the first time you’ve applied for ESA, you’ll get some money straight away if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) thinks you’re likely to be eligible for ESA when you first apply . You’ll have to send a fit note (previously known as a sicknote) from your GP with your claim form to show that you’re not fit for work. Even if the DWP 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 the ESA1 or NSESAF1) - everyone has to do this.
2. Complete a 'capability for work questionnaire' with questions 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, or even months, 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.

Claiming new style (contribution-based) ESA

To claim new style ESA, you need to fill in the NSESAF1 form. You can download and print the NSESAF1 form from GOV.UK or you can phone the DWP and ask them to send you a form by post. You’ll need to phone the DWP to arrange a meeting at your local Jobcentre. You should use the Universal Credit helpline to phone the DWP.

Universal Credit helpline

Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 012 1888

Open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm

Calls to these numbers are free. If you have a Universal Credit account, it’s best to call from the phone number you gave the DWP when you set it up. You'll have a shorter wait and be put through to the same person who handled previous calls you've made.

When you phone the DWP, they’ll book a meeting in the next 10 working days. Fill in the NSESAF1 form and take it to the meeting. Also take along any medical documents and anything else they ask for. Make sure you tell the DWP the first date you became ill - they can backdate your claim for up to 3 months.

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 DWP 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 the DWP would consider is a good reason. This will only be something like 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 DWP. If you do, they’ll text you to confirm they’ve got it.

Universal Credit has replaced income-related ESA for most people. Before you make a claim, you should check if you can get income-related ESA. You might need to claim Universal Credit instead.

If you're eligible for income-related ESA, you should claim:

  • by phone - an adviser will fill in an ESA1 claim form for you during the call
  • by filling in an ESA1 form and giving it to your local Jobcentre or posting it to the DWP

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

I want to apply by phone

ESA phone number for new claims

ESA claim line
Telephone: 0800 169 0350
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0350 
Welsh language telephone: 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

After your phone call

The DWP will send you a statement confirming all the details you’ve given them. 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 the DWP would consider is 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 DWP. If you do, they’ll text you to confirm they’ve got it.

I want to apply in writing

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 claim line
Telephone: 0800 169 0350
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0350 
Welsh language telephone: 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

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 DWP 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 the DWP would consider is a good reason. This will only be something like 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 DWP. If you do, they’ll text you to confirm they’ve got it.

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