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 find information on how to make a claim for ESA here.

Note that depending on your circumstances you may have to make a claim for Universal Credit rather than for income related ESA. You can find more information about eligibility and how to make a claim for Universal Credit here: Universal Credit

In most circumstances, if you make a claim for ESA you will initally 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 two tests which, together, make up what is called the Work Capability Assessment. You can find out more about the Work Capability Assessment here.

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 in most cases claim ESA whilst waiting for the appeal to be heard. You will have to continue providing 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.

Note that if you claim Universal Credit whilst seeking reconsideration this will end your entitlement to ESA. This is a complex area, and you should get advice about what is best to do in your particular circumstances.

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

Disability Living Allowance

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit for disabled people aged under 65.  However, 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 by phoning 0800 121 4600 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 time-consuming to complete, but give as much detail as possible – it may increase your chance of getting the benefit.

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

If you are unhappy with the DWP’s decision on a DLA claim, Advice now has produced a useful guide called How to win a DLA appeal.

Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit for disabled people aged between 16 and 65. Since 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 before late 2018. 

If your child receives DLA they will be invited to claim PIP shortly after their 16th birthday. Young people getting DLA under the special rules for the terminally ill will be invited to apply for PIP about 20 weeks before their DLA award ends.

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 and have care needs. Before 6th December 2018 the qualifying age was 65. However, from 6th December 2018 the qualifying age is your state pension age. You can work out the exact date you will reach State Pension age by using the State Pension calculator.

You can claim Attendance Allowance by phoning the Attendance Allowance helpline on  0800 731 0122. 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 £123 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, Universal Credit, 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 0800 731 0297.

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