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Incapacity Benefit

If you cannot work because of illness or disability which started before 27 October 2008, you may be able to get Incapacity Benefit. This is a weekly payment for people who become incapable of work while under State Pension age.

Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced on 27 October 2008.

It replaces Incapacity Benefit and Income Support, paid because of an illness or disability, for new claimants only. If you already receive Incapacity Benefit, you will continue to receive it. It is intended that recipients move to the new benefit between 2010 and 2013.

Further information about these future changes will become available in 2010.

Eligibility for Incapacity Benefit

You may be able to claim Incapacity Benefit if you were under State Pension age when you became sick and any of the following apply to you:

  • your Statutory Sick Pay has ended, or you cannot get it
  • you are self employed or unemployed
  • you have been getting Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and have not gone back to work for your employer because you are incapable of work

You must also have been:

  • paying National Insurance Contributions
  • unable to work due to sickness or disability for at least four days in a row (including weekends and public holidays)
  • unable to work for two or more days out of seven consecutive days
  • getting special medical treatment

or you must:

  • be aged between 16 and 20 (or under 25 if you were in education or training at least three months immediately before turning 20)
  • have been too ill to work because of sickness or disability for at least 28 weeks
  • have been too ill to work before you turned 20 (or 25 if you were in education or training at least three months immediately before turning 20)

If you have been living or working abroad

Living or working abroad can affect your Incapacity Benefit claim. But you may be able to claim if you have either:

  • paid enough UK National Insurance Contributions (NICs) in the past (and the equivalent in certain other countries - ask your local Jobcentre Plus office for details)
  • worked abroad for an employer based in the UK and paid NICs for the first 52 weeks of that employment

If you have not paid enough National Insurance contributions

You may be able to claim Incapacity Benefit even if you have not paid enough National Insurance contributions if:

  • you are aged under 20 (or 25 if you were in education or training at least three months immediately before turning 20), and
  • you have been sick for 28 weeks, and
  • you are present and resident in Great Britain for 26 weeks in the year before you claim

If you are in the Armed Forces or you live and work within the European Economic Area (EEA), you may still be treated as being resident in the UK.

How it works

Incapacity Benefit is paid at three weekly rates:

  • short-term (lower) IB is paid for the first 28 weeks
  • short-term (higher) IB is paid from weeks 29 to 52
  • long-term IB is paid from week 53


Current weekly amounts

Weekly rate  Amount Amount if you are over State Pension age
short-term (lower rate) £67.75 £86.20
short-term (higher rate) £80.15 £89.80
long-term basic rate £89.80 You are not eligible for long-term basic rate IB

You may be able to get an 'age addition' with your long-term Incapacity Benefit if you were under 45 when you became too ill or disabled to work.

You may be able to get extra benefit for your spouse or civil partner or the person who looks after your children.

Pension income rules

If you make a new non-linking claim to Incapacity Benefit and have a gross pension income of more than £85 a week, the amount of benefit payable will be reduced by half of the excess.

The excess is the difference between £85 and the actual pension income. For example, for a pension income of £100, the excess is £15. The amount of Incapacity Benefit payable is reduced by half of that, which is £7.50.


This rule does not apply if:

  • you were in receipt of Incapacity Benefit before 6 April 2001
  • your claim is made under the linking rules for Incapacity Benefit and links back to before 6 April 2001
  • you receive the highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance

How it is paid

Incapacity Benefit is paid into your bank, building society, Post Office or National Savings account.

If you are registered blind or need someone who cares for you to collect your money, your payment can be sent by cheque to be cashed at the Post Office.

Personal Capability Assessment and medical examination

When you make a claim for Incapacity Benefit, you will usually have a Personal Capability Assessment. As part of this, a doctor may recommend that you attend a medical examination.

Working while claiming Incapacity Benefit

If you receive Incapacity Benefit, you may be able to do some types of work. This is called Permitted Work. If you earn money while you get Incapacity Benefit, this could affect income-related benefits you receive.

How to claim

You can claim Incapacity Benefit by telephone or textphone. An adviser at the contact centre will go though the application with you and fill in the form. You will not have to fill in any forms yourself.

The contact centre is open Monday to Friday from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm.

Telephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone:  0800 023 4888

You can also claim online via the Department for Work and Pensions' Benefits online service.

If you would like to fill in the claim form by yourself, you can download it. You will have to print this form and post it to Jobcentre Plus.

What to do if your circumstances change

It is important that you contact your Jobcentre if your circumstances change. For example if:

  • you do any work including voluntary work
  • you start training and get a training allowance
  • you change your address
  • you have been in hospital for 52 weeks and part of your benefit is paid for another adult or child
  • you go abroad

For more information please contact your local Jobcentre Plus office.

How to appeal

If you are refused Incapacity Benefit or if you have questions about your payment, you can ask the office that dealt with your claim to look again at their decision.

If you are still unhappy with the outcome, you can appeal.

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