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Guide to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

This information is taken from the Benefits and Work website. There is a guide that Janet Horton our Benefits helpline Advisor can send to anyone who thinks they are likely to affected by the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the near future. There is a test on the Benefits and Works website where you can find whether you are in the support group or work-related Activity group for this benefit - this is available to anyone you don't have to become a member of benefits and work to access this test.

Read the following Questions and Answers that will hopefully answer some of your questions on the newly introduced benefit. An important thing to remember is that if you are already in receipt of Incapacity Benefit then this will not affect you initially. Also this does not have any impact on DLA or Attendance allowance.

What are the main differences between Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and current benefits?
The biggest difference is that claimants are divided into three groups: an Assessment Group; a Work Related Activity Group and a Support Group.

Who will be in the Assessment Group?
All claimants who are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will be in the Assessment Group for the first thirteen weeks of their claim. Eligibility for this group is based on having sick notes and either having paid enough national insurance contributions or passing a means test similar to the current test for income support.

Who will be in the Work-Related Activity Group?
After the thirteen week assessment period the vast majority of claimants who pass the assessment will be placed in the Work-Related Activity Group and receive an additional amount of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which should raise their income to above the current level of incapacity benefit. Members of this group will have to attend work-focused interviews and draw up an action plan setting out the steps they are willing to take towards moving into work. Failure to do so will result in cuts in their benefits.

Although actually undertaking work related activities and participating in condition management programmes will not be compulsory initially under Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the government has indicated that it will consider making such activities compulsory in a few years' time.

Who will be in the Support Group?
A much smaller number of the most severely disabled claimants, perhaps 10%, will be put in the Support Group. Claimants in the Support Group are paid at a higher rate than those in the Work-Related Activity Group and they will not have to do anything in return for their benefit.

Is that the only major difference?
No, one other major change under Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is that the Personal Capability Assessment - the test of whether you are incapable of work - is to be renamed the Work Capability Assessment and made much harder to pass. The physical health test has been tightened up, with many fewer opportunities to score points. The mental health test has been rewritten completely and will also be very much harder to pass. There will be no exemptions from the test except for terminally ill people, some pregnant women and people receiving chemotherapy.

Will existing incapacity benefit claimants have to go on to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?
The DWP have said that they intend to 'migrate' all existing claimants onto Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Claimants under 25 may be migrated in 2009, with the majority of claimants being migrated between 2010 and 2013 ".

The Department of Work and Pensions has a guide to the Employment and Support Allowance which is available here

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