Ask CPAG Online - ESA Problem Areas

What is Employment and Support Allowance?

Employment and support allowance (ESA) was introduced in October 2008. It is a benefit for people who are assessed as having ‘limited capability for work’ i.e. it is not reasonable to require them to work because of a physical or mental condition. There are two types of ESA:

  • contributory ESA (CESA), which is a national insurance (non-means-tested) benefit;
  • income-related ESA (IRESA) which is means-tested, that is dependent on income and savings.

There is a single claim process for both elements and you can qualify for either or both of them.

Why was ESA introduced?

ESA was introduced to replace incapacity benefit (and severe disablement allowance) and income support for people who were incapable of work. It was designed to encourage more sick and disabled people to take up work rather than rely on benefits for incapacity. Claimants of the previous benefits have been transferred onto ESA in a phased programme. 

What is happening to ESA in the future?

IRESA is being replaced by universal credit (UC) in a phased programme. UC consolidates means-tested support for people under pension credit age into one benefit, and includes extra payments for people assessed as having ‘limited capability for work-related activity’. New claims for IRESA can no longer be made in UC 'full service areas'. CESA continues to exist outside UC.The delays in UC implementation mean that IRESA is unlikely to be finally abolished for several years. See Chapter 2 of the CPAG Handbook for more details about the introduction of UC.

What problems commonly arise?

The administration and complex rules relating to ESA have caused problems for claimants from the outset, and continue to do so.

Click on the links below for detailed information and practical advice on common problem areas: