Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people aged 16 and over who: 

  • are not able to work because you are ill or disabled 

  • are not working (although voluntary work and some limited paid work is allowed)

The ESA will be paid from the date of your initial application if your claim is approved. 


How do I apply? 

  • The easiest way to apply for ESA is by phone. Call 0800 055 6688 during office hours.

    This initial call will take about 45 minutes and a parent or guardian can make the phone call for you. 

  • You will then receive your application form for you to check that the information you gave is correct and you will be asked to send an MED3 sick note, which you should get from your GP and proof or ID and where you live. 

    You will not be paid ESA until you have provided these documents. 


Assessment phase

  • Once you have returned the documents you will be paid the assessment rate of £57.90 per week paid every two weeks until you have been assessed. 

  • The DWP will send you Work Capability Assessment Questionnaire (ESA50) within 8 – 12 weeks of your claim which you must return by the date stated on the letter.

    If you do not, your benefit may be stopped and will need to make a new claim. 

  • Once you have returned the ESA50, you will be invited to attend a Work Capability Assessment which is arranged by Jobcentre Plus. 

    This is to see to what extent your illness or disability affects your ability to work. 

    If you are blind or partially sighted, the most relevant activities within the Work Capability Assessment are about your ability to get around outdoors independently, and communicate with other people.  

It will normally take 8 – 12 weeks from application to attending an assessment.


What happens next? 

There are three possible outcomes:  

  1. You will be found fit for work which means you will NOT receive ESA 


  1. You will be found unable to work and placed in the work-related activity group which include attending skills training such as how to write a CV how to research for a job.  
    These skill training sessions are run by job centre plus. You will be invited by letter and they are mandatory to attend. 
    If you do not attend you might be sanctioned which means your benefit could be reduced or stopped.  You will be reassessed every 12 months. 


  1. You will be found unable to work because of your disability or illness this. 
    This means you will be placed in the support group. Which means your ability to work will be re-assessed every 1, 2 or 3 years. If you have been found unfit to work and wish to challenge the decision you can call us on 0203 198 0225

Benefits can be confusing

If you would like some advice please speak with one of RSBC’s specialist benefits advisers, we can also help you complete the application forms and help you to challenge any decisions. 

If you are a parent or guardian or vision impaired yourself and aged 16 – 25 then please call 0203 198 0225 or email connections@rsbc.org.uk   


Published: 8th August 2018

Want to challenge a decision?

Challenging a decision about your benefits

If you disagree with a decision about your benefit, you may be able to challenge their decision. This page explains the process for challenging a decision, what mandatory consideration is and ways to prepare for your challenge.
Find out more

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