ESA claiming rules have changed – How does the DWP now process claims?

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Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) can be received on top of Universal Credit and the payments from it will support people while they’re ability to work is reduced. ESA can now also be received by people who are shielding or self-isolating due to coronavirus but the rules on how claims are processed have changed.

Since October 23, it is no longer possible to download an application form from the government’s website and send it in.

going forward, the only way to apply for ESA is by applying online or over the phone.

How much a person can receive from ESA depends on what stage their application is at, as well as elements such as the claimant’s age and whether they’ll be able to return to work.

A claimant will usually get an “assessment rate” for around 13 weeks while their claim is being assessed.

This will be up to £58.90 per week for claimants aged under 25 or up to £74.35 a week for those aged 25 or over.

Once the assessment is completed, claimants will be put into one of two group, those able to get back into work in the future will be put into the work-related activity group, with all other claimants placed into the support group.

Those in the work-related activity group will get up to £74.35 a week, with up to £113.55 being awarded to those in the support group.

Unlike Universal Credit, ESA payments will be paid every two weeks.

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Most claimants are likely to end up receiving the “new style” ESA, which has specific rules on eligibility.

Claimants will need to have worked as an employee or have been self-employed and paid enough National Insurance over the last two to three years to qualify for payments.

It is not possible to get new style ESA if the claimant also receives the severe disability premium (or are entitled to it) have been entitled for it over the previous month and are still eligible for it when applying.

Claimants who are getting Statutory Sick Pay from an employer will also not be able to receive new style ESA.

When a person applies for ESA, they may need to complete a work capability assessment which is used to find out if the person’s illness or disability affected how much they can work.

Some people may not need this assessment if their condition is particularly debilitating but for those who do, they’ll receive a letter from the government telling them what to do.

Initially, affected claimants will need to fill in a capability for work questionnaire and send it in to the Health Assessment Advisory Service.

From here, the claimant will be advised on what happens next.

Because of coronavirus, assessments are currently taking place over the phone.

So long as a claimant is eligible, ESA will last for at least 365 days if they’re placed in the work-related activity group.

There will be no time limit for those placed into the support group category.

To ensure claimants keep getting ESA, they’ll need to report any change in circumstances and may also need to regularly send in fit notes.

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