Employment and Support Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) provides financial help to people who are unable to work because of illness or disability. It was designed to replace Income Support (IS), Incapacity Benefit (IB) and Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA). Those who are still receiving these benefits will be assessed by March 2014 to see if they qualify for ESA.
All new applicants go through a 13-week assessment phase during which the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) assesses your health and your prospects of working or training for work.
How to apply for Employment and Support Allowance
The first step is to call your local Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688. They will ask you questions about how your condition affects your ability to work. Following this, they will send you a letter summarising what you discussed over the phone. Check that this accurately sums up what you discussed.
Work Capability Assessment
When you make a claim for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you will take part in a Work Capability Assessment to assess how your condition affects your ability to work. Assessment includes answering questions about how your condition affects your ability to work, and a medical assessment which is carried out by a medical professional who then sends a report back to the DWP.
You will be invited to an assessment with a GP or nurse who will go through what you have said on your questionnaire and see how well you can perform work-related tasks. These include your ability:
- to mobilise yourself unaided
- to move from a standing to a sitting position
- to pick up/move items
- to make yourself understood
- to use your hands/your manual dexterity
- to squat.
During your assessment make sure you let the medical professional know if you have any difficulties in performing these tasks, as the Jobcentre Plus will use this information to make a decision about which group you go into. Remember to give as much detail as possible, including your ability or inability to do the above tasks unaided, repeatedly and without severe discomfort. For most people with a muscular dystrophy or a related neuromuscular condition, they would not be able to squat without falling, so make sure the GP and nurse understand that you are not saying 'no', but you are advising them you will fall over if you try and squat and then you will be unable to get back up again.
After the assessment stage, if you are deemed to have a limited capability to work, you will be put into one of two categories:
- you are not well enough to work right now but with support, you could work. This means you remain on ESA and will move into the 'work-related activity' group. You will have to attend meetings with a personal advisor to discuss and prepare for an eventual return to work. You will receive the basic ESA payment plus a supplementary £26.75
- you are not well enough to work at all right now, meaning you will remain on ESA and move into the 'support' group. You will not have to prepare for a return to work, but you can if you wish to. You will receive the basic ESA payment plus an additional £32.35
If you have been receiving IB and qualify for ESA you will have to migrate over to ESA in the near future.