Benefits for people with a disability or long term illness, or who are caring for a disabled person

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

ESA is for people who cannot work because of an illness or disability (although you may be able to do some work if your earnings are low).  There are two types of ESA:

  • contributory ESA, which you can get if you have paid enough national insurance contributions (for some people this is time-limited)
  • income-related ESA which is paid if your income and capital are low enough.

You can make an initial claim for ESA by telephoning Jobcentre Plus on: 0800 055 6688  or by downloading a form from gov.uk.

To get ESA, you usually have to prove you cannot work by sending in medical certificates to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). During the first 13 weeks of your claim, you will usually have to have a number of tests which, together, make up what is called the Work Capability Assessment.

If you don’t agree with an ESA decision on your capability for work, you must first ask for a reconsideration of the decision before you can appeal. There are strict time limits for requesting a reconsideration and for making an appeal – check your decision letter.

You cannot be paid ESA whilst awaiting reconsideration, although you may be able to claim other benefits during this period, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance. If you subsequently make an appeal, you can claim ESA whilst waiting for the appeal to be heard as long as you provide medical certificates. Make sure you let the DWP know if this is what you want to do. If you have backdated medical certificates to cover the reconsideration period, you should be able to get backdated ESA for that period unless you have already had the equivalent in other benefits during that time.

If you want to challenge an ESA decision, you can get help from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or contact our advice service.

Disability Living Allowance

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit for disabled people under 65.  However, from 10th June 2013, people aged over 16 can no longer apply for DLA, but must claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) instead – see below.

DLA continues to be paid for children under 16.  If you are raising a child with a disability or long term health condition, it’s well worth applying for DLA because it can make a big difference to your family’s income.

DLA has two parts – the care component and the mobility component. A child may qualify for one or both parts.  You can claim for a child with a physical disability, learning disability, or behavioural or mental health problems – even if they don’t have a diagnosis.  What matters is the impact of their condition on their care, mobility and/or supervision needs.

DLA is not means-tested or treated as income for other benefits.  You can apply for DLA even if you are a foster carer.

An award of DLA can help you to qualify for additional benefits or for extra amounts of means-tested benefits and tax credits.  If someone in your household gets DLA you will be exempt from the ‘benefit cap’.

You can get a DLA claim form from the Benefit Enquiry Line 0800 88 22 00 or download one from the gov.uk website

When you are filling in the claim form make sure you include as much information as you can about your child’s needs.  Any information provided by a professional involved with your child’s care may also help.  The form is long and can be off-putting to complete, but give as much detail as possible – it may increase your chance of getting the benefit.

Contact a Family, a national charity supporting the families of disabled children, produces a comprehensive guide to claiming DLA for children.  Contact a Family may also be able to put you in touch with local help to complete the form. Its helpline number is 0808 808 3555.

Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independent Payment (PIP) is a new benefit for disabled people which will eventually replace DLA for people who are aged between 16 and 65.  From 10th June 2013 all new claims for people between these ages are for PIP rather than for DLA.

For people who are already claiming DLA there will be no automatic transfer to PIP. If you are getting DLA you will get a letter inviting you to make a new claim for PIP at some point between October 2013 and 2017.  Most existing DLA claimants won’t be affected until 2015 or later.  In some areas of the country children who have been receiving DLA will be invited to claim PIP on or shortly after their 16th birthday. To find out when your (or your child’s) DLA may be affected, click here.

If you don’t claim PIP when you’re invited to do so, or your claim is unsuccessful, your DLA will stop. If your claim is successful you will be transferred to PIP. 

People who are already getting DLA and who were aged 65 or over on 8th April 2013 can continue getting DLA as long as they meet the conditions.

PIP is made up of two parts – a daily living component and a mobility component. Within each component there is a standard rate and an enhanced rate. In order to qualify for either component you will need to be assessed by a healthcare professional and score a certain number of points.  Special rules apply for people who are terminally ill.

Like DLA, you can get PIP whether or not you work and it isn’t affected by your income or savings.  If anyone in your household gets PIP, you will be exempt from the ‘benefit cap’.

To apply for PIP phone the DWP on 0800 917 2222.

Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance is a benefit for people who are disabled, have care needs and are aged 65 or over.

You can claim Attendance Allowance by phoning the Benefits Enquiry Line on  0800 88 22 00. They can also help you to complete a form over the phone.  Alternatively, you can  download a form at gov.uk.

Carer’s Allowance

To qualify for Carer’s Allowance, you must be earning no more than £100 a week and spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a disabled person who gets Attendance Allowance, Constant Attendance Allowance, PIP daily living component, or the middle or higher rate for personal care of Disability Living Allowance.

In some cases, you may not be able to receive Carer’s Allowance because you are getting another benefit, such as Retirement Pension or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

Even if you can’t receive Carer’s Allowance, making a claim for it might allow you to get extra amounts in other benefits such as Pension Credit, Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.  The rules about this are complicated – you can contact us for advice.

If you are caring for an adult, you should always check with them before you make a claim for Carer’s Allowance as they may lose some of the benefit they get, such as a severe disability addition, if you make a claim.  Again, get advice on this if necessary.

You can claim Carer’s Allowance online or download a form at gov.uk or phone the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0845 608 4321.

Back to Benefits & Tax Credits