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Employment and Support Allowance - introduction

Employment and Support Allowance provides financial help to people who are unable to work because of illness or disability. It also provides personalised support to those who are able to work. Find out more about Employment and Support Allowance.

About Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance offers you personalised support and financial help, so that you can do appropriate work, if you are able to.

It gives you access to a specially trained personal adviser and a wide range of further services including employment, training and condition management support. This is to help you manage and cope with your illness or disability at work.

Employment and Support Allowance involves a medical assessment called the Work Capability Assessment. This assesses what you can do, rather than what you cannot, and identifies the health-related support you might need.

Most people claiming Employment and Support Allowance will be expected to take steps to prepare for work. This includes attending work-focused interviews with their personal adviser.

Under Employment and Support Allowance, if you have an illness or disability that severely affects your ability to work, you will get increased financial support. You will not be expected to prepare for a return to work. You can volunteer to do so at any point if you want to.

Who can get Employment and Support Allowance

You may be able to get Employment and Support Allowance if you have an illness or disability that affects your ability to work. Find out who can get Employment and Support Allowance using the following link.

Employment and Support Allowance rates and how to claim

There are several ways you can claim Employment and Support Allowance. The easiest and quickest is by telephone or textphone. Find out how to claim Employment and Support Allowance using the following link.

The amount you get paid depends on your circumstances. It also depends on what effect your disability has on your ability to do any work. Find Employment and Support Allowance rates using the following link.

How it works

For new claims, Employment and Support Allowance consists of two phases:

  • the assessment phase
  • the main phase

The assessment phase

The assessment phase lasts for the first 13 weeks of your claim. This is while a decision is made on your capability for work through the Work Capability Assessment. During this phase, Employment and Support Allowance is paid at a basic rate.

The main phase

The main phase starts from week 14 of your claim. If the Work Capability Assessment shows that your illness or disability does limit your ability to work. During this phase, an additional amount (called a component) is paid on top of the basic rate

There are two groups within the main phase:

Work-Related Activity Group

If you are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group, you will be expected to take part in work-focused interviews with your personal adviser. You will get support to help you prepare for suitable work.

In return, you will receive a work-related activity component in addition to your basic rate.

Customers are not required to attend the Work-Focused Interview (WFI) until it’s been confirmed that they’ve been placed in the Work-Related Activity Group.

Support Group

If your illness or disability has a severe effect on your ability to work, you won't be expected to work. But, you can work on a voluntary basis if you want to.

You will receive a support component in addition to your basic rate.

Customers moving onto Employment and Support Allowance from incapacity benefits

You'll be told whether you're in the Support Group or Work-Related Activity Group after the review of your claim to:

  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support paid on the grounds of  illness or disability
  • Severe Disablement Allowance

See 'How it works' section above for more information.

Your benefit will be transferred automatically and there will be no break in the payments you receive.

If the amount of incapacity benefit you get is more than the amount of Employment and Support Allowance, you’ll get a top-up payment. The amount of benefit you get won't rise until the amount of Employment and Support Allowance catches up with the amount of the top-up payment.   

If the amount of incapacity benefit you get is lower than the amount of Employment and Support Allowance, you will get more money. Your money will increase as soon as you move to Employment and Support Allowance.

Helping you into work

If you are in the Work-Related Activity Group, you will regularly see your personal adviser to discuss your work prospects. They will give you help and advice with:

  • your job goals
  • your skills, strengths and abilities
  • steps you can take to help find suitable work
  • your ideas, problems and any other work related issues you want to talk about.

It may affect your entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance if you refuse to:

  • go to the work-focused interviews
  • take part fully in the work-focused interviews

If you're in the Support Group, you don't have to go to interviews. However, you can ask to talk to a personal adviser if you want to.

About Permitted Work

You can do some limited work while claiming Employment and Support Allowance. There are rules about what work you can do and how many hours you can work.

Find out more about ‘Permitted Work’ using the following link.

Information leaflet from Jobcentre Plus

Jobcentre Plus publishes an information leaflet called 'Employment and Support Allowance - help if you are ill or disabled'.

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