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Employment Support Allowance

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Who can claim?

If you have a disability or health condition which means your ability to work is affected, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to help with the cost of living. 


You can apply for ESA regardless of whether you are in employment or not. You may be currently receiving Statutory Sick Pay. 
There are two types of ESA:

Contribution-based. If you’ve been employed or self-employed and paid enough National Insurance Contributions.
Income-related based. If you have not paid enough National Insurance Contributions, you may be eligible for a means tested ESA. 


There are two groups of ESA claimants. If you aim to get back into work, you may be in the work-related activity group. If you are unable to get back into work, you may be in the support group. These two groups have different rates of benefit entitlement and may make you eligible for things like the enhanced disability premium. 


How is it assessed?

People claiming Employment & Support Allowance will usually be asked to attend an assessment at Baltic House in Norwich, although there is a possibility of a home visit if this is required.

The health professional will ask a series of questions and submit a report to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), giving their medical opinion and suggesting how long it is likely to be before you are fit to go back to work.

You may be asked to do certain tasks, for example, to show what range of movement you have, but you should not be asked to perform any action that you find physically painful and you can refuse such a request.

There is a list of activities and descriptors that you will be assessed on, these are tasks you might find difficult, and each one is given a score from 0-15. You can read about these descriptors in this document from page 17 onwards. 

If you have recent medical evidence such as letters which confirm your diagnosis, medical history, or copies of test results, it is a good idea to take these with you. 

We recommend that you take someone with you to your assessment.  The DWP has encouraged this.  They will not be able to answer questions for you but will be able to take notes and help you if you struggle to remember things.
ESA Assessments in Norfolk are conducted by Maximus who have information on the assessment process on their website


Working and claiming ESA 

If you are receiving Employment and Support Allowance (once you have passed the Work Capability Assessment) it is acknowledged that doing some work can be therapeutic and is useful as a ‘back to work’ strategy.  There are limits to how many hours you can work, and any paid work must be at minimum wage or above. Please see this DWP webpage for more information on permitted work. 

Starting work is a change of circumstances so you are legally obliged to report it to the DWP if you are already receiving benefits. You would need to complete a permitted work form. You would need to explain the work you are doing and show that it does not mean that you might now be capable of tasks that you previously could not perform. 

You may also do any amount of voluntary work, although anyone working regular days for over 16 hours work is likely to be considered capable of doing this on a paid basis.


Find out more

You can call our advice line to get further information about ESA, on 01508 491210 option 3, or by emailing You can also ask us a question through our Facebook page

Please note that there are other things which affect your ESA claim such as Universal Credit, Statutory Sick Pay and Severe Disability premiums so please check the ESA information page on for the most up to date facts and figures. 

You can use a free benefits calculator to work out what you might be entitled to such as Turn2Us or entitledto. 


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